Democrats Should Have "Plan B" Ready To Go On Surge Debate This Week
There's a good Page One piece in today's Post about the Senate debate today on various surge resolutions, pointing out the political pressure that many vulnerable 2008 GOP incumbents are under from both their increasingly anti-war constituents back home and their party leadership inside the Beltway, who want them to support the president or else be portrayed as being against the troops. In typical GOP fashion, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will try a number of moves this week to weaken support for even the Levin-Warner compromise, including the insistence that several votes on GOP or straw man resolutions take place first before the vote on the compromise resolution occurs. What McConnell does not want to happen is for the Levin-Warner resolution to get an early vote this week, without a chance to peel away wavering GOP senators first.
Unfortunately, between Warner's own waffling of late and McCain's senseless browbeating without offering specific consequences for Iraqi noncompliance, the GOP may be successful in boxing up the Senate to a point that no resolution makes it out the chamber at all, which is exactly what the White House wants. The question for Democrats is what to do as a Plan B if this happens. As I see it, there are two possibilities.
First, the Democrats can simply make their best effort to get Levin-Warner passed and beat back the GOP misdirection efforts this week, and if they fail, spend the next six months blaming the GOP for not listening to their constituents back home and setting the table for another debate later this year of unknown outcome.
The other alternative would be to call the bluff of those wavering and vulnerable 2008 GOP incumbents and have a fallback resolution ready for debate that specifies specific benchmarks for the Iraqis to meet by a date certain, such as June 1st, 2007, with specific consequences if the Iraqis fail to do their part, all packaged with a rescission of the 2001 AUMF. These consequences could include the commencement of a redeployment of all American forces away from Baghdad to nearby countries and safe bases inside Iraq; and the implementation of the ISG recommendations, all to be done between July 1st and December 31st, 2007, with a withdrawal of the majority of our forces from Iraq to be concluded by July 1, 2008. This approach addresses the misgivings of the senators who still want to give the president one more chance and think the surge may work while testing their claim that they want to see real benchmarks and consequences. It puts all the pressure for success where it belongs: on the president and his supporters and tells them this is their last chance. More importantly, it limits his ability to lie his way into another war by tearing up the AUMF and corrals him. It will influence the fall debate on FY 2008 military spending, where Democrats can use the surge's failure to cut the defense budget after this one last chance and rightly ensure that there will be no funds to continue this war after Bush has left office.
It's not a great solution, but Democrats need to have a Plan B ready to go if the GOP leadership and White House undermine the debate this week. And they need to make sure that the GOP knows the consequences for ignoring their constituents now will have a cost. The Democrats don't have the margins necessary in the Senate to force a resolution to their liking, and must look for ways to address the wishes of public to the disadvantage of the GOP.