Fighting Smart

Monday I published a post about building a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate to vote against the war. A number of commenters argued that since Democrats in Congress are the majority, they should simply refuse to pass any war funding bill, period. This would force Bush to bring the troops home, they said.

I doubt that cutting off funds would force Bush to do any such thing. He could take funds out of other parts of the Defense budget, for example —

“The Army is currently claiming that the supplemental needs to be enacted by the end of April to avoid such problems. In this year’s bridge fund, however, Congress provided $28.4 billion to meet the Army’s operational needs, some $7 billion higher than last year’s bridge fund. The additional funds could reduce the pressure to pass the supplemental quickly. Using DOD data, CRS estimates that the Army could cover its operational costs till about June or July 2007 by using war funds in the bridge, temporarily transferring procurement funds to operations, and tapping monies in its baseline budget that would not be needed until the end of the year,” the report says.

And we know the Bushies have few scruples about tapping into funds that were appropriated for something else, even though it’s illegal for them to do so.

We cannot underestimate how warped Bush is. He’s at least a pathological narcissist if not a full-blown psychopath. I do not believe anyone can force him to do anything he is determined not to do, authority or no authority. His ego is on the line, and if he’s a true psychopath he will have no compunction about sacrificing every U.S. soldier in Iraq rather than admit defeat. For that reason I’m opposed to playing chicken with Bush over the troops. Bush will not blink, no matter the risk.

For that matter, I do not believe for a minute that Bush would honor an act of Congress that stipulated a troop withdrawal, even if his veto were overridden. He’d just nullify the act with a signing statement and go his merry way.

Bush has made it clear many times that he isn’t concerned about what happens in Iraq once his administration is over. He just doesn’t want to be the president who admits defeat. Let the next president take the fall for losing Iraq.

So what can we do? Is it possible to force a troop withdrawal before Bush’s term is up?

Paul Krugman came up with the best analogy of our situation awhile back — our troops are Bush’s hostages. Here’s what Professor Krugman said:

There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.

If this were a normal political dispute, Democrats in Congress would clearly hold the upper hand: by a huge margin, Americans say they want a timetable for withdrawal, and by a large margin they also say they trust Congress, not Mr. Bush, to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq.

But this isn’t a normal political dispute. Mr. Bush isn’t really trying to win the argument on the merits. He’s just betting that the people outside the barricade care more than he does about the fate of those innocent bystanders.

This is the way psychopaths operate. If you’ve ever had the unhappy experience of having to deal with a psychopath, you’ll know they can’t be reasoned with. Nor do psychopaths make compromises about anything they consider important. Once they get their minds fixed on X, nothing can persuade them to change to Y, even if Y is clearly in their own best interest. And they will do anything to have things exactly their way. They will go further than you can even imagine. You cannot beat a psychopath at his own game without becoming psychopathic yourself.

Bush must be dealt with like the deranged hostage taker he is. He will kill the hostage rather than surrender. On the other hand, giving him everything he wants won’t make him easier to deal with, either. He’ll just escalate his demands. And then maybe he’ll kill the hostage anyway, for the hell of it.

If Bush is as warped as I think he is, the only way to rein him in is to remove him (and Dick) from office and forcibly march him out of the White House. And this only Congress can do.

The ultimate goal is to isolate Bush by stripping away Republican Party support. Force Republicans to choose between loyalty to Bush and their own political careers. Build up veto-proof majorities. Put Bush on notice that he will obey Congress or be impeached. As I explained in the “Number Crunch” post, this is a reachable goal. Once it’s clear to Republicans in Congress that Bush is a stone around the neck of the Republican Party — and, believe me, that’s getting clearer every day — they’ll turn on him as they turned on Richard Nixon back in the day. Nixon, remember, didn’t resign until senior Republicans in Congress told him he had lost their support and had better go.

I’ve said we can’t beat Bush at his own game. That’s why the game should be changed from “Democrats versus Republicans” to “Congress versus the White House.” That’s the only way we’ve got a shot at forcing an end to the war before the next administration takes office. However, if Dems were to grandstand on defunding the war right now, Republicans would line up to support Bush and the war. They wouldn’t have to take a clear stand for or against Bush; they could unfurl their “support the troops” banners and skip the hard questions.

My understanding is that the current “emergency” appropriation is to cover costs until September, which is the end of the fiscal year. That’s when the White House will discover another “emergency,” probably when Bush returns from his August vacation. A number of Republicans in Congress have made noises about ending their support for the war if the “surge” has not produced significant improvement by August. I think that whatever the Dems do now has got to be done with an eye to dividing Republicans in Congress from Bush then.

I see a lot of support in the blogs for the sentiments expressed in this ad campaign, which was put together by John Edwards’s campaign staff:

We The People

The Edwards campaign is raising money to get this ad onto the airwaves in Washington, D.C., where the guilty will see it. Click here for more information, and to contribute.

Also, MoveOn is organizing rallies tomorrow to protest the veto.

I honestly don’t know what Reid and Pelosi will do next, although word is they will propose another funding bill without the timelines but retaining the benchmarks, which have more Republican support. This tactic is not a popular one here in Blog Land. Chris Bowers at MyDD and Jane Hamsher at firedoglake are not happy. They prefer Jack Murtha’s “short leash” proposal, which would force a new vote on appropriations every two months.

I would prefer the “short leash” tactic also. But I’m going to be a contrarian and say that sending a bill with fewer conditions to Bush now is not necessarily a disaster if Reid and Polosi can get a substantial number of Republicans to support some conditions, which is possible. Bush is nearly certain to either veto or nullify that bill, also, which would put him at odds with many in his own party. And there will be another “emergency” appropriation bill to vote on in about four months.

I’m watching Jim Webb on Countdown now. We sent Bush a vote of no confidence, Webb says, and Bush needs to start listening to this. He hopes that the Democratic leadership will keep the provision for standards of training and deployment of troops. A bill with benchmarks for Iraq and limits on how long troops can be deployed might sufficiently piss Bush off that he’d veto that, also.

John Kerry wrote today at DKos:

We are not going on offense for petty political reasons, not partisanship for politics’ sake, but because there are lives at stake here and a failed policy in Iraq to turn into something that makes sense morally and militarily.

But something stands in the way, and I don’t mean President Bush. To no one’s surprise, he vetoed the money for our soldiers and a new course in Iraq. Long ago he doubled down with the Wolfowitzes and the Perles and the Cheneys and the Rumsfelds of the neoconservative movement. Yes, the Congress voted to set a deadline to change course in Iraq, hold squabbling Iraqi politicians accountable, and give our troops the money they need. And yes, the American people are clamoring for this change. The President vetoed it, anyway.

But the President couldn’t remain in his ideological bunker without a whole host of enablers. It is Republican Senators who are blocking a change in course in Iraq and enabling the President; many who claim to be “independent” are in fact acting as a big roadblock to a real change of course.

But just as last year you defeated the Rubber Stamp Republicans, now it’s time to take on these Roadblock Republicans and show them the pressure a committed American public can put on them. And maybe, if we put enough pressure on the right places, they’ll rethink supporting the President over the change of course our troops deserve.

Kerry suggests starting with four senators — Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Sununu (R-NH) — to target for defeat next year. He’s got an ActBlue page set up to support whatever Dems run against them next year. Check it out if you are interested.

Other points to consider: I just got word that seven House “Democrats”voted to uphold Bush’s veto on the Iraq bill today. They are:

John Barrow, Georgia
Dan Boren, Oklahoma
Lincoln Davis, Tennessee
Jim Marshall, Georgia
Jim Matheson, Utah
Michael McNulty, New York
Gene Taylor, Mississippi

McNulty‘s toast. The Netroots will see to replacing him next year. The rest of these DINOs may be harder to reach. The seven were among the thirteen congresspersons who voted against the compromise bill last week. These gentlemen need to be made uncomfortable, I say.

14 thoughts on “Fighting Smart

  1. I honestly don’t know what Reid and Pelosi will do next….

    This is the key. Without them, nothing will change. Congress will roll over and show its belly like a good dog.

    I think you’re right, it’s come down to impeachment or nothing. I just don’t see any reason to believe that Harry and Nancy understand that.

  2. “so what can we do?”
    That’s easy, pull everything we own out of the banks and the stock market, buy only what’s necessary,support only the small businessman, shut it down.
    But like Eric Cartman on South Park, I’d be the only one mooning the teacher. Solidarity is all but dead…..

  3. Oh, and thanks for alerting us to John Edwards’ ad. I just gave $25.00. Wish I could afford more. “A president who thinks he can do no wrong.” Go, Johnny!

  4. Umm, didn’t the administration first talk about the surge lasting 3-4 months back in January? Then I hear noises about the coming summer, i.e., June or July being the time-line for telling the ‘success or not’ tale of the surge. Next, I hear August mentioned, then September. Lastly, I just read some pro-surge site which mentioned October as the month when we should finally know whether the surge works.

    Why is there all this creeping about putting off a reckoning about the surging?

  5. I’m emotionally fond of the idea of sending the same bill back to him, over and over, but I realize that tactic would only work with a sane opponent, and here would be a waste of time. I agree that working toward a ‘Congress vs. White House’ situation is a solid aim, and I’m willing to sacrifice some purity to get a critical number of Republicans peeled off. (I think the subtext of ‘Congress vs. White House’ could be ‘Rationalists vs. Crazy Commander Guy.”)

    I think it would help to get some agreed-upon list of ‘specific, measurable things we want to see happen real soon’ , whether we call them “benchmarks” or “objectives” or “mumble-wumpus”. (I’m really, really tired of the “We’re making progress! / No, you’re not!” back and forth, and it would be nice if we could get agreement from congressional Republicans on some specific measurements that matter.)

  6. Benchmarks will never matter how you flip it, benchmarks will all come down to trying to undo Bush’s past mistakes to create a society in Iraq like there was before Bush tinkered with it. You can’t unscramble scrambled eggs. It’s a civil war in Iraq because Bush brought about the circumstances and added the fuel to make it a civil war. It’s pure foolishness to think the Iraqis can negotiate their way out their predicament in 5 months. It will take a lot more blood and a lot more time before Iraq settles down. So benchmarks can only serve as an excuse to bail out..and Bush won’t buy.
    I read tonight were some right wing idiot characterized the Iraqi’s handling of their dilemma as “squabbling”. Really, Bush flipped their entire society on its head and implemented democratic elections guaranteed to destroy their unity as a nation, and this rightie describes it in terms of pettiness. Poor Bush..having to deal with small minded ingrates.

  7. Actually, Bush’s tactic is an old one. It only works when one is unconcerned about the consequences.

    To emphasize the situation to the American Public, Congress could pass a 1 month spending bill with no strings, then resubmit the vetoed bill at the end of the month. When Bush vetoes it again, pass another 1 month emergency spending bill (lather, rinse, repeat).

  8. I don’t know what Pelosi and Reid will do either, but I do have faith that they won’t roll over.I perceive both of them as having strength,conviction, courage, and honesty. And are people of substance.

  9. I liked the idea, voiced by diariest Kid Oakland on Daily Kos, that Pelosi and Reid should appoint Jim Webb to negotiate personally with Bush.

    This would give the Dems two major advantages at least: 1) it’s tough to hold enough Congresspeople together against one psychopath – Reid and Pelosi did it once, they may not be able to do it again, and 2) Webb has a son in Iraq and so any noise Bush will put forth about endangering the troops is going to be met with Webb’s “BullShit!” in Bush’s face. The political theater alone would be great.

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