I say David Broder is the pure distillation of everything that is bleeped up in Washington. Take today’s column, for example.
Writing about the Iraq War, Broder says “A clear national mandate is being blocked.”
The public verdict on the war is plain. Large majorities have come to believe that it was a mistake to go in, and equally large majorities want to begin the process of getting out. That is what the polls say; it is what the mail to Capitol Hill says; and it is what voters signaled when they put the Democrats back into control of Congress in November.
This is exactly right. Clearly it is the will of the people to haul our national butt out of Iraq. Clearly that will is being blocked. But who is blocking it? Our blockheaded President, who vetoed timetables for withdrawal and who has made it plain he won’t even consider withdrawal as long as he’s in the White House? Republicans in Congress, who prevented an override of the veto?
No, of course not. Broder complains that the Democrats are responsible for blocking the will of the people and keeping the troops in Iraq. My only question is whether Broder is a perfect idiot or more of a slapdash, hit-or-miss sort of idiot. I’m leaning toward the former.
Broder also blames the Constitution.
It makes the president commander in chief of the armed forces, the only elected official whose orders every general and every private must obey.
Congress shares war-making power under the Constitution but can exercise it only through its control of the money the president needs to finance any military operation.
Geoffrey Perret has an op ed in today’s New York Times that argues the Constitution has been pretty much abandoned regarding war power. Perret is a highly regarded biographer and military historian; I’ve been one of his fans ever since I read his book on Ulysses S. Grant (highly recommended). He has a new book out called Commander in Chief: How Truman, Johnson, and Bush Turned a Presidential Power into a Threat to America’s Future that looks very promising. In today’s op ed, Perret makes a nice argument that the role of “commander in chief” as George Bush interprets it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the powers the Constitution actually gives him.
Since Lincolnâ€™s day the war powers of the presidency have been pumped up like a balloon. It is current American policy that the president has the power to order the kidnapping, torture, indefinite secret imprisonment and even the death of almost anyone, anywhere. Can this really be what the Founding Fathers intended?
And the answer is no, it can’t. But Broder makes the common — and wrong — assumption that the Constitution gives Congress only “the power of the purse,” and says,
Most Democrats are unwilling to exercise their right to cut off funds for the war in Iraq, lest they be accused of abandoning the troops in the middle of the fight.
Lacking the will to do that, they are forced to an uncomfortable alternative. They are proposing to continue financing a war that most of them oppose, while placing conditions on the conduct of the war that the president says will reduce the chances of his strategy succeeding.
That claim, whatever its merits, places the Democrats on the defensive. It is not a comfortable position, but it is where they find themselves — for now.
Broder has a remarkable capacity for believing what he’s told:
In this moment, the commander in chief has a clear plan — to apply more military force in and around Baghdad in hopes of suppressing the sectarian violence and creating space for the Iraqi politicians to assemble a functioning government.
It is a high-risk policy with no guarantee of success. But it is a clear strategy.
In today’s St. Petersburg Times, Philip Gailey explains the true nature of this “clear strategy.”
Contrary to what his critics say, President Bush does have a timetable for ending the war. He plans to hand the disaster over to his successor at high noon on Jan. 20, 2009.
If Iraq is going to have an ugly ending, as it almost surely will, Bush is determined to see that it doesn’t happen on his watch, and there’s not much the Congress can do to foil him short of cutting off funds for the war, a step Democrats apparently are not ready to take.
Bush will keep asking for more time and money. As long as American forces are in Iraq, as long the fighting goes on, the war cannot be labeled a failure, at least in Bush’s mind. To admit defeat, to acknowledge that they blundered and destroyed a nation in the process, and maybe set the stage for even greater mayhem in the Middle East, is not the way of the swaggering pseudo-cowboy from Texas or his delusional and treacherous vice president.
As Ross Perot used to say, it’s just this simple: President Bush is the impediment to ending the war. There he stands, like a stone wall.
But both Broder and Gailey think that Congress could stop Bush if only the Dems would get the courage to cut off funding to the war. I disagree. Bush is a psychopath who is holding the troops hostage. If you’ve ever had to deal with one, you’ll understand when I say you cannot back a psychopath into a corner. Just when you think you’ve got the varmint boxed in, he’ll do some utterly unimaginable thing to get free. I think if funds were cut off Bush is likely to siphon money from other parts of government to keep the war going. And every Republican politician would be off the hook; instead of being forced to take a firm stand for or against the war, they could continue to scapegoat the Dems as “surrender-crats” who don’t support the troops.
If Bush is as crazy as I think he is, the only way a troops withdrawal will begin before 2009 is if Bush is removed from office. And, like it or not, it’s going to take some Republican support to accomplish that, because it requires two thirds of the Senate.
For that reason, I see no alternative to the step-by-step, bill-by-bill, vote-by-vote work of forcing Republicans to take a stand for or against the war. Sooner or later, Bush must be forced to either withdraw troops or defy a veto-proof majority of Congress. And even the Artichoke says “It is hard to imagine the Republicans going into the presidential election of 2008 with 150,000 American troops still taking heavy casualties in Iraq.” I think that if forced to make a clear choice between loyalty to Bush and their own political ambitions, Republicans will throw Bush under the next bus.
Conventional wisdom says that the Great Republican Defection will begin in August or September. CW can be wrong, and I have no doubt that Bush and his fellow psychopath Karl Rove already have a plan for keeping Republicans in line. On the other hand, Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes write for the Los Angeles Times that Defense Secretary Gates may not be following Bush’s playbook.
President Bush has mobilized his administration, including his top general in Iraq, in a major push to win more time and money for his war strategy. But one crucial voice has been missing from the chorus: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’.
In fact, Gates’ recent comments seem to run counter to the message from the White House. During a recent trip to the Middle East, Gates told the Iraqi government that time was running out and praised Democratic efforts in the U.S. Congress to set a timetable for withdrawal, saying it would help prod the Iraqis. He reiterated that point during a meeting with reporters last week.
Whatever. I’m skeptical that anyone who works for Bush is going to be allowed more than a couple of inches off the reservation. We’ll see.
We’re all playing against the clock. Bush is trying to run it out, and he might succeed. On the other hand, time will soon be up for Republicans in Congress who face re-election in 2008. Will the realities of politics finally force Congress to take down a rogue president?