November 15, 2007

Democrats Try Timetables Again

Over the spring and summer, the Democrats tried putting timetables for withdrawal onto funding bills for the war in Iraq. At that time, they claimed that the war had been lost, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid explicitly declaring defeat on the floor of the Senate during the debate. In the end, they lost the battle for defeat and retreat as the Bush administration backed them into a corner, even while losses spiked in the early days of the surge.

Now, of course, the strategy and tactics of General David Petraeus have proven successful. Violence across all markers has dropped precipitously, and even the slow motion of the Maliki government has begun to take up reconciliation proposals, including a general amnesty demanded by the Sunnis. Al-Qaeda terrorists have all but abandoned western Iraq, and their senior leadership continues to lose membership. One might think that the Democrats would reconsider their plan to declare defeat.

Think again:

The Democratic-led House of Representatives defied a White House veto threat Wednesday and inserted timelines for an immediate troop withdrawal in a 50 billion dollar Iraq war funding bill.

The House voted 218 to 203 to pass the emergency war budget, calling for a pullback of most combat troops to start within 30 days, with a goal of completion by December 15, 2008.

President George W. Bush, who has thwarted every previous Democratic attempt to change his war policy, has repeatedly warned he will never accept mandated troop withdrawal timelines.

The vote, the latest drama in a prolonged showdown between Bush and Democrats over the war, was largely symbolic, however, as the bill is considered dead on arrival in the Senate.

It's dead on arrival in the House, too. Even if by some miracle the Senate could pass the same bill, the White House would veto it -- and Congress couldn't possibly override it. The Democrats would be in the same place they were in the spring, where they faced a hard deadline for funding operations or leaving troops without the necessary resources, and they would have to provide the funding again in a form acceptable to the White House.

The political ground has shifted. The Democrats made huge mistakes in the summer, opting to take a hard line on Iraq to please their netroot base while alienating Congressional Republicans, some of whom favored pressuring the Bush administration for a policy change. In the months of May and June, when casualty rates went up, Reid and Pelosi had an opportunity to split the GOP caucus and push through moderate limitations on the Iraq deployment.

Those days have passed. After enraging Senate Republicans with their all-nighter stunt and pulling the defense appropriation off the floor as punishment, the Democrats followed that with an attempted character assassination of Petraeus. Hillary Clinton led that charge on the Hill, claiming that she needed a "willful suspension of disbelief" to trust anything the general that the Senate had just overwhelmingly confirmed into command had to say on Iraq. Unfortunately for Hillary and the rest of the Democratic caucus, events proved Petraeus correct and themselves dead wrong.

As a result, they will garner little Republican sympathy for their latest machinations. They have played themselves into a checkmate on the Iraq war, and they know it. They can pass all of the 218-203 votes they wish, but they have no chance of altering war policy at this point in time short of completely defunding the war effort -- an option they didn't have the courage to use when they had some Republican support. They have lost, and it won't even take a veto to prove it on this issue.


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» Democrats Just Can't Get Enough of Defeat from QT Monster's Place
Democrats have clearly defined themselves as the party of defeat in Iraq and in the War on Terror. With the success of The Surge in Iraq, and violence in that country continuing to drop, the Democrats in the US House unbelievably predictably want to fo... [Read More]