The supposed unity of the Democrats on Iraq continued to unravel further yesterday, with more Democrats speaking out in favor of the cut-and-run strategy favored by Jack Murtha, while others insisted that none of them supported running away from the fight. The Post gives a pretty good scorecard for the confusion which once more bolsters the national perception of a party unworthy to hold responsibility for national security. Nancy Pelosi’s wholehearted defection from the lawyerly constructions emanating from the Democratic caucus in the Senate has exposed the Democrats’ disarray on an issue which seemed to resonate so well for them until the GOP forced their hand in the House two weeks ago:
For months now, Democratic leaders have grown increasingly aggressive in their critiques of President Bush’s policies in Iraq but have been largely content to keep their own war strategies vague or under wraps. That ended Wednesday when Pelosi (D-Calif.) aggressively endorsed a proposal by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, leaving only a much smaller rapid-reaction force in the region.
The move caught some in the party by surprise. It threw a wrench into a carefully calibrated Democratic theme emerging in the Senate that called for 2006 to be a “significant year of progress” in Iraq, with Iraqi security forces making measurable progress toward relieving U.S. troops of combat duties. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said last month that “it’s time to take the training wheels off the Iraqi government.”
What’s more, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) issued a statement Wednesday that was in marked contrast to Pelosi’s. “I believe that a precipitous withdrawal of American forces in Iraq could lead to disaster, spawning a civil war, fostering a haven for terrorists and damaging our nation’s security and credibility,” he said.
The resulting confusion has led to some pretty amusing moments. The Post quotes Democratic strategist Davd Sirota as calling opponents of immediate withdrawal as “insulated elitists … most of whom have never served in uniform” and in the same breath hailing the “courage” of Pelosi and Jack Murtha in calling for a retreat. Did Pelosi serve in combat? I had no idea. Perhaps Sirota can explain how it is that he insists that only those who served in uniform have the necessary skills to assess the situation, but then hold Pelosi as an expert and a courageous military analyst.
Also, Jonathan Weisman quotes an anonymous Democratic pollster who tells him that Murtha and Pelosi have convinced themselves that they have their fingers on a grassroots pulse that will elevate the Democrats to victory through retreat. How do they know this? Murtha got a standing ovation at a Starbuck’s in Dallas last week. Aren’t at least half of the people in a Starbuck’s at any one time standing anyway?
John Kerry, predictably, has blown all over the place since the Murtha demand for immediate withdrawal came up again last month. During his presidential campaign, Kerry flirted with all kinds of strategies for the war before coming up with one in the final days that most closely resembled the plan already in place by George Bush — except that Kerry demanded an increase in American troops. Now, he wants a phased withdrawal, but insists that he isn’t asking for a timeline:
Some Democrats continued yesterday to finesse their position. At a White House appearance after an event honoring civil rights leader Rosa Parks, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said: “If you just continue along the road we’re going now without a more concrete transfer of responsibility — a target schedule by which you begin to turn over provinces, by which you specifically begin to shift the responsibility — I think a lot of people fear that it’s going to be more of the same.”
He added: “I’m not asking even for the specific timetable of withdrawal. I’m asking for a specific timetable of transfer of authority.”
So he’s demanding a specific timetable for transfers of authority, which means that we hand over entire provinces to the Iraqis whether they’re ready or not — but that’s not the same thing as a specific timetable for withdrawal. No, but it’s a great recipe for disaster, especially since the terrorists will simply lay back and gather their strength for the transfer dates rather than continue to get outclassed by the American military. Kerry, as he did so often during the presidential election, talks out of both sides of his mouth and manages to get the worst of both worlds in doing so. Thanks to Pelosi, he will get no credit from the Leftists, and thanks to Joe Lieberman, he still looks like a cut-and-run politician who just knows how to dress it up better than his colleagues.
When did Karl Rove return from his leave of absense, anyway?