Democrats have delayed further consideration to restrict or cripple the Iraq war deployments, apparently stunned by the lack of cohesion among their own caucuses and fearful of the backlash their efforts might produce. Harry Reid has delayed the progress of a Joe Biden bill to revoke the 2002 AUMF, and Nancy Pelosi has started to distance herself from John Murtha (via Memeorandum):
Democratic leaders backed away from aggressive plans to limit President Bush’s war authority, the latest sign of divisions within their ranks over how to proceed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday he wanted to delay votes on a measure that would repeal the 2002 war authorization and narrow the mission in Iraq.
Senior Democrats who drafted the proposal, including Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan, had sought swift action on it as early as this week, when the Senate takes up a measure to enact the recommendations of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission. …
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meanwhile, said she doesn’t support tying war funding to strict training and readiness targets for U.S. troops.
The comments distanced her from Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who has said he wants to use Congress’ spending power to force a change in policy in Iraq, by setting strict conditions on war funding.
Pelosi said she supports holding the administration to training and readiness targets, but added: “I don’t see them as conditions to our funding. Let me be very clear: Congress will fund our troops.”
It appears that the Democrats may have misinterpreted their mandate, and that they have finally discovered that they’re on the brink of demanding surrender while at war. While a majority of Americans have serious doubts about the management of the war, most understand that pulling troops out of a fight means surrender and retreat, and they don’t see how that makes America any more secure. In fact, a surrender to terrorists in Iraq will make this country a good deal less secure and embolden the terrorists to continue attacking our interests, and the Democrats seem to be the last to that realization — or the realization that Americans understand these stakes.
Now the Democratic leadership has to backpedal from their enthusiasm for defeat. John Murtha made the mistake of talking too much about the purposes of the Democrats to force an end to the Iraq deployment by starving Centcom of supplies and fresh troops. Now Pelosi has to assure angry voters that she will not defund the troops fighting in the field. She won’t even publicly support putting conditions on the pending $100 billion supplemental that Congress must approve in the coming weeks.
This is a major step backwards for the Democrats, and it doesn’t come a moment too soon. They have earned the reputation as defeatists already, but they came close to owning responsibility for that defeat, and even members of their own ranks pointed that out. The attempt to double down after the failure of the non-binding resolutions has backfired, helped in large part because the new efforts would have had an actual impact on operations, crossing a line at which some supporters of the non-binding resolutions balked.
Make no mistake, though; as Harry Reid told his caucus, “Iraq is going to be there — it’s just a question of when we get back to it.” They’re going to redeploy over their political event horizon to find some other strategy to appease their anti-war activists while avoiding responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Perhaps the third time will be the charm, but it seems more likely that they will experience a slow bleed of their credibility across the political spectrum.