Yes, I’m discouraged. I said this morning that I didn’t expect to like the new appropriation bill, but it is worse than I had feared. There are benchmarks, but according to everything I’m hearing the penalties are on paper only. Timetables are gone; I expected that. But I was hoping the bill would be tougher on the benchmarks. The new bill provides that foreign aid will be withheld if the Iraqi government misses benchmarks, but Bush can decide to give the Iraqis the money anyway.
I agree with what Lane Hudson says here:
The Democratic Leadership needs to understand something. In November, the American people elected you to control the United States Congress.
That’s a big deal. The number one thing they want you to do is change the course of the war in Iraq.
Thus far, you’re failing. Now, you’ve got your own time table. If you aren’t able to pass meaningful legislation in September that will begin the process of bringing our troops home, then you will lose credibility with us, the American People.
John Amato at Crooks and Liars has a video of the David Obey/Nancy Pelosi press announcement this afternoon. Note that Pelosi says she is not likely to vote for the bill herself. Obey says,
The practical result of this would be that we would transfer the debate on the Iraqi War from the ’07 Supplemental to the the ’08 regular defense bill and the ’08 supplemental appropriations bill for defense. So we will continue to be pressing the issue and I would predict that in the coming months there would be more and more people coming our way in terms of demanding a change in that Iraqi policy.
I’m glad that John also quotes from Paul Krugman’s brilliant column, “A Hostage Situation.”
There are two ways to describe the confrontation between the U.S. 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 George W. 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 Bush, to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq.
But this isn’t a normal political dispute. 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.
I sincerely do not believe Bush would cave in and bring the troops home if funds were cut off. I think he would just usurp more authority the Constitution doesn’t give him and siphon money from other parts of the budget. He’s done it before, you know. And if anyone has to economize, it would be the troops. This really is a hostage situation.
This evening lot of people are, correctly, pointing out that Bush’s poll numbers are hitting new lows. Most Dems (maybe a few in conservative districts are exceptions) shouldn’t have to fear Bush any more. But I don’t think poll numbers tell the whole story.
First, the boy ain’t right. Get this from Stewart M. Powell of Hearst Newspapers:
The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday. … the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record-high number — by the end of the year.
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
It’s like he can’t get enough war. Absolutely terrifying.
For another perspective, see Michael Tomasky at The Guardian web site:
First, this development is completely unsurprising, since everyone has known for some time that there was nothing else the Democrats could do. Back in January, it was clear that, whatever the Democrats decided to do with their new congressional majorities, there was one thing they could not accomplish: stop funding for troops already in the field.
Iraq is Bush’s war and Bush’s failure. But if his Democratic opponents had stopped funding the war, Republicans would have argued that the fiasco was suddenly the Democrats’ responsibility and failure. Pundits would have drawn immediate parallels to the way a previous Democratic-led congress de-funded Vietnam, and the party would have lost its standing in this fight.
They might have been up to taking the chance of de-funding if they’d had a united caucus. But they don’t, not remotely. The key number here is 61. That’s the number of Democrats in the House of Representatives who represent districts that Bush carried in 2004 (by contrast, only eight Republicans represent districts that John Kerry won). Many of these 61 are scared to death that they could lose their seats in 2008, and with good reason – the Republicans are targeting them and are intent on winning the 15 seats they need to regain control of the House.
De-funding the war would – there’s no escaping it – put some of those 61 at risk. If you’re thinking long term and you want a congress that might actually do responsible things about healthcare and global warming and even Iraq in the future, then now just isn’t the time for the Democrats to force this issue.
I think there’s something to what Tomasky says. Another way to put this is that the current effort isn’t just about Iraq. It is about rebuilding congressional power and balancing our constitutional system. It’s that very imbalance that got us into Iraq in the first place. The Bush Administration used September 11 and a servile Republican Congress to destroy the structures through which the government normally exercises power. From that perspective, the goal is not withdrawal from Iraq, but a restoration of congressional power, from which would come a withdrawal.
On the other hand, all over the blogosphere today people who had to be coaxed into supporting Dems in the midterm elections last year are now stomping off in disgust. A lot of them will either spend 2008 in sullen pouting, or they’ll run into the waiting arms of Ralph Nader, which is the same thing as turning the nation back over to the Republicans.
Dems in Congress may want to be cautious, but they don’t have a lot of time. If they can’t score some victories against Bush by this fall, I think they’re going to lose support and possibly congressional seats next year.