December 6, 2007

Timelines To Disappear Again

The Democratic disarray continues in Congress, where leadership has no clue how to manage expectations. Once again, after promising to force the White House into commitments on troop withdrawal deadlines, they have reversed course. Instead, they will set up benchmarks on political progress that will not force any withdrawal commitments at all:

Each day lately, Democrats inch closer to giving President Bush more money for the war in Iraq without any serious mandates for withdrawing U.S. troops.

Democratic leaders are loath to acknowledge they’ve backed off, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as congressional aides, say Democrats are trying to find a way to provide continued troop funding while searching for some compromises that show they’re still intent on challenging the president on the war.

The possible conditions for troop funding include anti-torture rules and benchmarks for Iraqi political reconciliation, language sure to upset an impatient Democratic anti-war base that wants immediate troop withdrawals.

According to one senior Democratic lawmaker, there’s a growing discomfort among pro-defense Democrats about linking a $50 billion Iraq measure to troop withdrawal.

“We have to come off this lack of funding for the military operations,” the lawmaker said. “We have to continue the funding. We don’t want to look like we’re against troop funding. ... We should separate the funding discussion from the rest of the war.”

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have made themselves absurd on this issue. Just from a purely political point of view, one can only promise something a small number of times without delivering on it without losing all credibility. They passed that point in July, when Reid didn't even bother to attend his all-night pajama party after realizing the Republicans would stick around and fight. For the antiwar base, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have become Lucy with the football, and they've discovered that they're Charlie Brown.

Anyone could have predicted this. The time for these kinds of measures, if it existed at all, passed in May, when the surge had spiked American combat casualties. Instead, Congress took 108 days to figure out how to pass an appropriations bill for war funding, by which time the previous appropriation had expired. That meant the troops had no funding, and the Democrats had little choice but to pass something that could re-fund them quickly.

After that, the Democrats insisted that they would restrict funds to withdrawal commitments. The pajama party followed, and then a curious thing happened: the surge began to show success. Democrats did everything but call General David Petraeus a liar when he reported it, but wound up with egg on their faces when it turned out to be true. When even the New York Times began reporting on the substantial reversal of fortunes that the surge provided, the credibility of the Democrats on war strategy -- with Harry Reid's "We surrender" still ringing in the nation's ears -- hit its nadir.

Instead of recognizing this, the Democrats have tried to double down, and they've failed ... again. It's time Reid and Pelosi look for a new strategy themselves, or Democrats look for new leadership.


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» Democrats Are ‘Retooling’ Their Demands On Troop Funding from Right Voices
Retooling, actually translates to scrapping the idea. But how do they cave on the funding and still save face with their base? The possible conditions for troop funding include anti-torture rules and benchmarks for Iraqi political reconciliation, l... [Read More]