Tuesday :: Apr 3, 2007

Losing The Debate And Missing The Goal


by Steve

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Bush has used the congressional Easter recess this week to launch an attack on the Democratic leadership today for questioning his judgment and allegedly that of the military commanders on the ground by tying a withdrawal timeline to the supplemental appropriation bill. He also took a shot today at Nancy Pelosi for talking with the Syrians, even though a) GOP members of Congress have done this before without a peep from Bush; and b) the Olmert government asked Pelosi to take a message directly to Syrian president al-Assad. Democrats should have seen this coming, and they probably did, but I will take this opportunity to re-state my minority and unpopular opinion around the center-left blogosphere. Democrats should not have gotten themselves into this position of tying strings to the money this early as they have now taken partial ownership of Bush’s war at a time when moderate GOP members of Congress were ready to abandon him later this summer.

My preferred course of action was to monitor the surge’s progress each and every week by dragging administration officials up to the Hill to give status reports, to build a record of the missed benchmarks and the shifting stories by this White House and its supporters on the GOP side of the aisle. But I would not have moved this early to put strings on the supplemental, and I would not have added nonmilitary spending to it either, because the Democrats have now engaged in the same omnibus spending hoaxes that they routinely accused the GOP of over the last six years. I would have funded the surge, and held the administration and Defense Secretary Robert Gates accountable for the timeline he laid out earlier this year, and jumped on each and every instance of the Iraqis not meeting their benchmarks or the administration not doing its part to undertake the diplomatic measures required for regional security and investments by Iraq’s neighbors in the process.

The time and place to have the fight over end-dating this war would have been with the 2008 defense authorization bill this fall, after a record could have been established this summer on whether or not the administration was credible in its claims and promises to Congress about the surge, after the Democratic leadership could have used the months in between to argue that they are supporting the troops and this plan one more time. It is clearly within the right of Congress to put strings on the annual budget, as previous Republican members have done to Democratic presidents. There is no poll that I know of which indicates that a majority of the public wants the Democrats to have this fight now to force a date certain with the current supplemental appropriation bill. Yes, there are majorities in favor of setting a 2008 deadline for withdrawal, in favor of deployment requirements, and against funding any addition troops in Iraq, but that can be done this fall with the annual budget, and Democrats can insert and demand either a March 2008 (the Senate version) or an August 2008 (the House version) deadline as a condition for the defense budget, again after building a case over the summer months for doing so.

Instead, we are treated to the nauseating spectacle this morning of a president who sent too few troops with too little equipment and support into a war of choice based on lies, now ruthlessly and basely claiming that it is the Democrats who are making our troops and their families pay a price for what in essence was his original and ongoing negligence. Not only is the whole “100 Hours” agenda threatened now, but Democrats have managed to insert themselves into owning and being blamed for Bush’s negligence.

You can counter that this would have happened anyway with this White House, but funding the supplemental and overseeing the surge over the summer while pushing through as much of the agenda as they could would still have allowed Democrats to show that they wanted progress here at home and abroad, and not immediate confrontation on everything. I know that this represents a Beltway conventional wisdom, and I know that my fellow bloggers say such a CW is directly contradicted by the polls, but I am waiting to see where a poll shows the public supports the Democrats going into open warfare on everything right now and tying up current funding for troops in the field after May. That is different from working towards a 2008 withdrawal, which as I said could have been done this fall as part of the 2008 budget, and after the GOP moderates would have abandoned Bush out of political necessity.

In order to hold off political Armageddon in 2008, the GOP needed to steer the Democrats into a posture where they could be portrayed as ineffective at governing, and weak on national security. I’m afraid the GOP may succeed. As much as I loathe Bush and detest what he is doing here, I am also looking to the long-term goal, which was to get the troops home before the end of 2008 and make a case that more Democrats needed to be elected in that election. I know that many of you disagree with me on this and want the confrontation now as an expression of the public sentiment in the midterm election, but I don’t think this is what the public was voting for, and I think pushing this fight this early may be counterproductive to the Democrats.

Steve :: 8:22 AM :: Comments (62) :: Digg It!