Monday :: Aug 13, 2007

Goodbye Karl; Hello Reality


by Steve

MSNBC image

As Mary noted below, Karl Rove is departing the White House, and as expected, he predicted that Iraq would be improving in the coming months and that Hillary Clinton would the Democratic nominee, but said she is a fatally flawed candidate. I look forward to hearing more from Rove about his reasoning about Clinton’s alleged flaws, but the rest of his comments sound SOP from him.

The White House will do everything possible to spin Iraq as an improving situation between now and the end of the year, to prevent GOP representatives and senators from leaving the reservation. This was the sole reason for the recent PR campaign for which Brookings’ O’Hanlon, Pollack, and CSIS’s Cordesman were willing fools, to sell the GOP congressional allies (and hostages) that Iraq required not a mission change or a withdrawal, but rather “strategic patience”, which is code speak for “Keep Rubber Stamping This War Until 2009”. But the truth is that thanks to the Blue Dog Democrats, Nancy Pelosi does not control the House when it comes to stopping this war or derailing the fear campaign behind the FISA and other travesties. Rove has known since he realized he couldn’t count on his “math” in the 2006 midterm that the result wasn’t that bad for the White House. Unfortunately, both Pelosi and Harry Reid thought they had enough votes to stop this war and to rein in this White House when in fact the Democrats have barely enough votes to pass legislation, but certainly not enough to override a veto, even on pocketbook issues.

Rove’s departure will not change anything, as he will keep advising the White House by phone on what to do. The playbook is already in place for the rest of this administration: delay all investigations by blaming the Democrats for being too nosy and doing too little; hold off any change in course in the war by claiming an improving situation in the absence of any political reconciliation, and by blaming the Democrats for defeatism for even suggesting anything but a rubber stamp; and neuter the Democratic domestic agenda with a newfound GOP obsession with fiscal austerity and the usual red herring that Democrats just want to raise your taxes. That is the game plan the rest of the way and Democrats need to accept reality and plan on how to win against this backdrop and the abandonment of any Bush agenda.

On Iraq, none of you will like what I am about to say, but feel free to tell me differently. Democrats do not have the votes to stop this war before 2009. The range of possibilities for Reid and Pelosi are:

•An August 2008 withdrawal timeline tied to the 2008 supplemental. Prognosis: Reid doesn't have the votes and if he did have a majority, McConnell would filibuster this so that it will never leave the Senate;

•A mission change amendment to the supplemental, based on the bipartisan movement in the Congress, perhaps to include requirements for troop readiness and rest and perhaps to include a requirement to bring the Guard back home. Prognosis: This could clear the House and Senate, but McConnell may filibuster it;

•A status quo policy until August 2008, which ties into the timeline Cordesman is talking about with his “strategic patience” advice, on the premise that the Iraqis will do something internally during that time without instead dissolving. Prognosis: ; This may not clear the House and Senate unless many Blue Dogs and Senate Democratic bedwetters supported it, but in no case should the Democrats take the lead on such a policy - the GOP must be made to carry this ball and get the votes to pass it in both houses, thereby making the GOP take back sole ownership of this war heading into the 2008 campaign.

My preference is for the Democrats to start with the first option but then fall back to the second and then force the GOP to carry the ball to sell the third if the Blue Dogs and Senate Democratic bedwetters run for cover as expected. Democrats could rebuild the narrative that this is Bush and the GOP’s war and that there needs to be a Democratic president and larger Democratic Congress elected in 2009 to change course and rebuild our military and our alliances.

The FISA vote confirmed that neither Pelosi nor Reid should negotiate with this Administration. But it also confirmed that the Blue Dog Democrats in the House and the usual Democratic bedwetters in the Senate will do the White House’s bidding when fear and lies are used to push national security matters. As such, neither Reid nor Pelosi have operational majorities in either chamber on these issues, and can only play defense for now.

The only place where Reid and Pelosi can achieve some gains is on domestic issues, and even then they will have to pick and choose their targets. The SCHIP expansion is one area where the Senate can muster an override vote, but can Pelosi do this in the House? Bush has already said that he will veto any spending beyond his budget, yet he shows no such discipline when it comes to unending war spending. Democrats need to hammer a narrative that the same White House that dumps $10 billion a month into Iraq without any oversight suddenly wants to question spending on infrastructure, homeland security, and healthcare here at home. Democrats also need to have ready-made attack lines against GOP senators and representatives who bellow about fiscal austerity and discipline here at home while they rubber-stamp an unending war, corruption, and graft overseas in Iraq benefiting GOP contributors.

Reid and Pelosi need to recalibrate their agenda and strategy to take into account these realities and stop lurching from issue to issue and racking up losses.

Steve :: 10:58 AM :: Comments (69) :: Digg It!