Call it “redeployment.” Call it “withdrawal.” Call it what ever you wish but what it comes down to is “retreat.” And since our boys are still getting shot at, there is no other way to put it except to state that the Democrats want to retreat in the face of the enemy.
Don’t pretend to be offended. Don’t pretend to be angry that anyone is “questioning your patriotism.” What is it about the word “retreat” that angers you so? It is not unpatriotic to argue for retreat now nor is it necessarily uncalled for. But trying to gussy the concept up by hamstringing the President or the Pentagon without actually effecting a retreat is cowardly. In actuality, by initiating the slow bleed the troops plan (now evidently as dead as a doornail, thank God) you force the President to do your retreating for you.
Why the Democrats are so timid about announcing this strategy to the voters is a mystery. There is nothing immoral or even unpatriotic about advocating retreat from Iraq. The immorality lies in their subterfuge, trying to hide what they are doing from the American people by scrambling every which way to couch their strategy for Iraq in something less than honest terms. This after loudly proclaiming that the election in November was a mandate on Iraq.
The problem with having a mandate, however, is that it would be nice if someone, somewhere in the Democratic party would define it for us:
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.
Speaker Pelosi also appears to be at a loss on how to define the Democrat’s “mandate” from the November elections:
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.”
Good to hear but hardly the stuff to please the rabid anti-war left who are already foaming at the mouth about the refusal of the Democrats to simply declare defeat and bring the troops home by not giving Bush another penny to fight the war. The problem, as the Democrats are beginning to realize, is that the American people have some pretty strong opinions about the war and not all of them line up in lockstep with the loony netroots who are hell bent on taking the Democrats for a long step off a short plank.
While partially debunked by some expert pollsters, the recent Public Opinion Strategies poll did in fact give the lie to many arguments made by the left that the American people agreed with them down the line on Iraq. Instead, despite problems listed by Pollster.Com and Kirsten Powers – two political professionals whose views should be respected – I still stand by the thesis of this article I wrote about the poll; that the American people have a much more nuanced view of what our role in Iraq should be than either the right or the left give them credit for.
And this is the problem that the Democrats are running into when they flail about looking for a strategy to differentiate themselves from the President without appearing to undermine either the troops or the mission. But it’s not for a lack of ideas. Here are just a few of the proposals floated in the House and Senate by the Democrats in addition to the aforementioned Biden plan on de-authorizing AUMF and Murtha’s slow bleed the troops plan:
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL) On His Resolution: â€œThe time for waiting in Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close. The need to bring this war to an end is here. That is why today I am introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007.â€ (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, 01/30/07, pS.1322)(HT: Jon Henke, New Media Advisor, Senate Republican Communications Office)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY) On Her Proposal: â€œI don’t want to defund our troops. I’m against that. But I want to defund the Iraqi troops. I want to defund the private security going for the Iraqi government if they don’t meet these certain requirements.â€ (Fox Newsâ€™ â€œSpecial Report With Brit Hume,â€ 01/18/07)
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI) On His Resolution: â€œU.S. Senator Russ Feingold today introduced the Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007. Feingoldâ€™s bill uses Congressâ€™s power of the purse to force the President to safely redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq by prohibiting funds for continued operations six months after enactment.â€ (Sen. Feingold, â€œFeingold Introduces Iraq Redeployment Act Of 2007,â€ Press Release, 01/31/07)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D-MA) On His Resolution: â€œI have introduced legislation which would require the President to get the authority he needs from Congress before moving forward with further escalation in Iraq. I intend to seek a vote on it, unless the President changes course. â€¦ I look forward to that debate and a vote at the earliest possible time.â€ (Sen. Kennedy, Congressional Record, 02/06/07, p.S1588)
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT) On His Resolution: â€œMr. Chairman, as you know on January 16, I followed up my statement of opposition to the Presidentâ€™s plan in Committee with the introduction of binding legislation in opposition to the Presidentâ€™s proposal to escalate US combat involvement in Iraq. I have done so by statutorily limiting troop levels to those on the ground as of January 16, 2007, absent the explicit authorization in advance from Congress to increase those levels.â€ (Sen. Dodd, â€œPrepared Remarks Of Senator Dodd â€“ Dodd Amendment Limiting Troops Deployed To Iraq â€“ Foreign Relations Committee,â€ Press Release, 01/24/07)
Some of these plans would make for interesting debate in the Supreme Court as one side or the other would almost certainly contest the constitutionality of various provisions contained in the bills or the President’s refusal to abide by them. Such would make for good political theater but hardly solves either the Democrat’s dilemma of how to retreat from Iraq without appearing to advocate it or the President’s problem of being able to keep recalcitrant GOP members in line long enough to give his strategy a chance to succeed.
The fact that Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi cannot even get a consensus within their respective caucuses on the way forward should give the President a small bit of breathing room on Iraq.
But I would bet that by the time the National Symphony revs up The 1812 Overture for the fireworks show on the 4th of July, if there is not a noticeable improvement in the security situation in Baghdad and – even more importantly – there is no tangible progress by the Maliki government on the host of political issues facing the country with regard to Sunni participation in the political life of the country and national reconciliation, I would suspect that the Democrats will once again find their voice and begin this process all over again. Only this time, they will be joined by many frightened Republican legislators who see Iraq as a millstone around the neck of the party and have no desire to go down to defeat carrying it with them.
It is too early to say much of anything about the surge except it seems to have gotten the Iraqis attention, especially Muqtada al-Sadr and his murderous militia. And the fact that the Maliki government has finalized the oil rights agreement is the first good news from that quarter in months.
But even that will not be enough to blunt the momentum for retreat if the Democrats ever get their act together. It won’t be for lack of trying. But as long as they insist on hiding behind sophistry and legislative tricks to accomplish their goals, the American people will treat them with the contempt they so richly deserve.