For the regular cartoons, see Bob Geiger.
For an irregular cartoon, take a look at Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post. WaPo is running an editorial today that’s so absurd I had to read it three times to be sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks.
As Tbogg says, the shorter version of this rhetorical specimen is “The glaring lack of an exit strategy from Iraq is entirely Harry Reid’s fault.” The less short version is that, in HiattWorld, there is already a bipartisan consensus on what to do about Iraq that is also supported by the White House. The reason this consensus is not being carried out is that Harry Reid is standing in the way.
I’m serious. Get this first paragraph:
THE SENATE Democratic leadership spent the past week trying to prove that Congress is deeply divided over Iraq, with Democrats pressing and Republicans resisting a change of course. In fact that’s far from the truth. A large majority of senators from both parties favor a shift in the U.S. mission that would involve substantially reducing the number of American forces over the next year or so and rededicating those remaining to training the Iraqi army, protecting Iraq’s borders and fighting al-Qaeda. President Bush and his senior aides and generals also support this broad strategy, which was formulated by the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton commission. Mr. Bush recently said that “it’s a position I’d like to see us in.”
I’m no military expert, but I take it Fred Hiatt isn’t, either, so I say my opinion is at least as informed as his. I question whether a “residual” force could be kept in Iraq for very long. In March 1973, when the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, the U.S. planned to keep a “residual” force there, also. Two years and one month later, as North Vietnam took control of Saigon, the last Americans were airlifted out. My fear for the “residual” troops is that they would be targeted by insurgents — some of whom are part of the Iraqi military they’d be training — and there’d be not enough protection for them.
The other glaring problem that Hiatt doesn’t see is that, no matter what Bush may say he wants to do, he’s not going to remove combat troops from Iraq until Congress forces him to do so. He’s been making noises about “drawing down” troops numbers since 2004, at least. It ain’t happenin’. He’s been making noises about training Iraqi soldiers to take over “the mission” since 2004. The Iraqi military is never ready to take over.
And the big, fat reality Hiatt isn’t seeing is that while more Republicans talk about changing Iraq policy, so far only four Senators have actually had the guts to vote on changing policy. The rest of the GOP senators “wavering” on Iraq policy are WINOs — “wavering in name only.”
The editorial continues,
The decision of Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) to deny rather than nourish a bipartisan agreement is, of course, irresponsible.
Let’s see — Republicans were using procedural weaseling to avoid debate and block an up-or-down vote on a proposal to begin troop withdrawal. Hiatt says this is Reid’s fault. Weird.
But so was Mr. Reid’s answer when he was asked by the Los Angeles Times how the United States should manage the explosion of violence that the U.S. intelligence community agrees would follow a rapid pullout. “That’s a hypothetical. I’m not going to get into it,” the paper quoted the Democratic leader as saying.
Nobody’s talking about a “rapid” pullout. The bill the Republicans blocked voting on provided that a withdrawal would begin within 120 days and end by April 2008. And it provided for Hiatt’s deeply beloved “residual” force.
Fred, dear, that’s why Reid called talk of a “rapid” withdrawal “hypothetical.” It’s not because he’s avoiding the issue; it’s because no one is talking about a rapid withdrawal. Do pay attention.
For now Mr. Reid’s cynical politicking and willful blindness to the stakes in Iraq don’t matter so much. The result of his maneuvering was to postpone congressional debate until September, when Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, will report on results of the surge — in other words, just the outcome the White House was hoping for.
In paragraph one, the editorial implied that the White House was on board with the Baker-Hamilton commission recommendations. In this paragraph, the White House is just kidding. But let’s go on …
Harry Reid voted against Reed-Levin to give himself the option of re-introducing it at any time. After the recent vote on Reed-Levin, Reid explained,
Because Republicans continue to block votes on important amendments to the Defense Authorization bill, we can make no further progress on Iraq and this bill at this time.
For these reasons, I have temporarily laid aside the Defense Authorization bill and have entered a motion to reconsider.
But let me be clear to my Republican colleagues â€” I emphasize the word â€œtemporarilyâ€. We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq. We will do everything in our power to complete consideration of a Defense Authorization bill. We must do both.
And just to remind my Republican colleagues â€” even if this bill had passed yesterday, its provisions would not take effect until October.
So we will come back to this bill as soon as it is clear we can make real progress. To that end, I have asked the Democratic Whip and Democratic Manager of the bill to sit down with their counterparts to work on a process to address all outstanding issues related to this bill so the Senate can return to it as soon as possible.
The editorial accuses Reid of avoiding issues and the Dems of “trying to use Iraq as a polarizing campaign issue and as a club against moderate Republicans who are up for reelection.”
The game the Republicans seem to be playing — with Fred’s help — is “let’s obstruct everything the Dems try to do so we can campaign against do-nothing Dems.” But that’s a game that can be played both ways. The point of Reid’s little pajama party was to demonstrate what weasels the Senate Republicans really are. Outside the Senate chamber they talk about changing course; inside the Senate chamber they refuse to allow a change of course. The biggest leverage the Dems have to force the Republicans to get serious about changing course is the 2008 elections. If Republicans don’t want to be “clubbed” with Iraq in the 2008 campaigns, all they have to do is put their votes where their mouths are.
Update: More WaPo propaganda — Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray wrote yesterday that
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid offered no apologies yesterday for his decision to reject compromise efforts to alter President Bush’s Iraq strategy that had the support of a growing number of Republicans.
What Kane and Murray don’t explain is that the so-called “compromise efforts” were a sham. Greg Sargent explains,
Meanwhile, Collins has her own measure calling for withdrawal from Iraq that would force a transition away from the current combat mission but wouldn’t force withdrawal of the troops. The measure — whose exact language hasn’t yet been released, according to the office of its co-sponsor, Senator Ben Nelson — is murky at best. And as best as we can tell, it appears to be riddled with loopholes.
Maybe Collins’ idea is to become a member emeritus of the WINO caucus now, or something.
Kane and Murray wrote that Dem Senator Chuck Schumer said the Nelson-Collins bill would have allowed the war to continue while giving Republicans a safe haven from tough choices. “It would delay them coming on board, because they would say [to their voters], ‘See, I’m trying to do something,’ ” Schumer said.
I guess with WaPo, actually bringing home the troops is less important that saying the troops will be brought home. Someday. Depending on conditions on the ground. As soon as the White House says it’s OK. Whenever.
Update2: Susie writes,
How much does Fred Hiatt get paid under the table to put crap like this on the WashPo editorial page?
I had the same thought. Truly, if Hiatt isn’t already getting paid, he should send the RNC an invoice.