Iraq Supplemental Post-Mortem

The new Netroots CW on the Iraq supplemental funding bill has been set by Markos and I will give it this, it is a much more honest and realistic position than the previous argument that this bill actually was worth a darn. No more "first concrete step" nonsense. Now the point is the House Dems' proposal will never become law. I guess I should be happy, there seems to be a new consensus for my no funding proposal. But I am not. Because I disagree with the analysis. I will explain why on the flip.

Chris Bowers articulates his version:

The more I think about it, at least in the short term, both camps in the progressive side of this debate will actually get what they want. This bill will pass the House, but it will also never pass into law. Many anti-war activists don't want any more spending bills for Iraq to pass into law, and they want to start by defeating this one. When Republicans defeat this bill via Senate filibuster, or when Bush vetoes the bill, anti-war activists holding that position will get their wish, as this bill will be defeated. It will not be defeated in the way they want it to be defeated, but it will be defeated nonetheless. At the same time, those of us now favoring the bill will get what we wanted: headlines showing Democrats trying to end the war, but being thwarted by Republicans. Pelosi will look like a strong leader, and the Democratic caucus will look unified. In the short term, not only have Democrats won the politics of this fight, but there still won't be any more money to continue the Iraq war. We all won.

Actually, in the short term, I have always accepted this point, IF it played out that way. But it won't. What Chris does not realize is that the GOP and Bush are playing politics too. Indeed, on Iraq, Bush has so outmaneuvered Dems since the 2006 election that it is not even funny.

After the November elections, after the Iraq Study Group report, the idea of there NOT being some withdrawal plan was not even one that was seriously considered. Even Bush, everyone thought, including the GOP, would have to face political reality.

We all learned something different. Bush did not provide a withdrawal plan. Bush proposed an Escalation Plan!

Suddenly, we were not debating how fast to withdrawal. The debate became whether there should be an escalation. And after much fumbling and bumbling, the Senate and House made noises that meant nothing politically and policywise on the Surge.

The other big issue being discussed was whether Bush can go to war with Iran. This was another frustrating debate for me because it acepted a false premise - that Bush can unilaterally declare a war. A provision against that view was originally part of the Iraq Supplemental but was stripped out at the behest of the Blue Dogs. Substantively, I do not care. That provision was unnecessary. But the fact that it was proposed was a bad move, and yes it was progressive Jim McDermott who did that. The fact it was taken out is worse. Talking about emboldening Bush.

And so it goes with all of the Iraq initiatives. And it will be so with the Iraq supplemental. House Dems and the Netroots seem not to understand how this process has played out and will play out.

The very same pressures that forced the capitulation to the Blue Dogs will force further capitulations along the way starting with the Senate, IF a bill is to be approved. If the goal is to have Bush veto a bill then it was critical to start with as strong a bill as possible so that when the inevitable compromises were made along the way at least at the end Bush would need to veto. The bill, if it emerges, that Bush will see will be utterly toothless. To wit, he will not veto it and the Dems will have funded the Debacle.

Chris writes:

I indicated yesterday that the next fight would probably be engaged over the Department of Defense appropriations bill in late April/early May. However, when this bill--the one we have so agonized over--is defeated either via filibuster or via veto, the fight over the Iraq supplemental will continue. And we will need to work together on that fight. If there is any attempt to cave to Republicans, and pass a bill with no restrictions whatsoever, people on both sides of the current debate will need to join together to help defeat that bill. You better believe I will help whip votes to defeat a straight-up funding of the war. Further, if Democrats decide to scrap this bill, and start over with new legislation, we will all need to work together to make the language stronger, rather than weaker. Yet further, even apart from this bill, we will need to make sure that provisions which were stripped out of it, such as language requiring congressional approval for any military action on Iran, are not only given a vote on the House floor, but passed by the House. In short, no matter what happens, once this bill is passed we will need to continue working together to help bring an end to this war.

That's all very nice Chris, but the "218, best we can get mantra" is now the baseline. Does anyone think you can retrace those steps? Pelosi went down that road. The Netroots went down that road. The Out of Iraq Caucus went down that road. The funding with next to no restrictions is a fait accompli now.

All that is left is messaging. The reality is Chris that the strategy you endorsed really leaves you only to try what Markos is talking about:

The message being sent is that Democrats want out, Republicans want more Americans to die in Iraq. That is the clear distinction we need heading into 2008. Voters will then decide which they prefer -- pullout or escalation. And when we win that battle and hold the White House and Congress, this war is history.

I do not believe that message can be sent effectively given what will transpire now. But at least there is a level of realism, political savvy and pragmatism in this approach. It won't work but at least we are back on Planet Earth.

The idea that the progressives and the Netroots can now, turn on a dime and stop a weaker bill in the future is pretty much a pipe dream. Better to just concentrate on trying to execute the strategy Markos outlines. That accepts that the war will not end until after the 2008 election. And that is the consequence of the House Iraq supplemental. That's why I so vehemently opposed it.

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    It's a let's hurry up and pass something Bush... (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by cal11 voter on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 10:00:13 AM EST
    will veto it anyway mentality.  Why does that sound so wrong to me?  Does the House Dem leadership operate in a vacumn or is there something happening behind the scenes with the Senate Dem leadership?  Unity is a poor substitute for progress, but it may be a precondition to progress.  Maybe.  We'll see.

    Perhpas the idea (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by andgarden on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 10:28:06 AM EST
    has been to make Bush and the Republicans look like the obstructionists. Surely that must have been the point of Reid's various anti-surge bills. I agree with you though, this has been a risky and ill-advised strategy.  

    I am having trouble (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 10:37:02 AM EST
    connexcting to the site so instead of individual responses I'll do a global here.

    The strategy NOW is to have Bbush veto we are told. before we were told this was the first step blah blah.

    As I wrote, I give Markos credit for not insulting our intelligence and admitting that this is a 2008 election strategy not a get out of Iraq before that strategy.

    Perhaps that is the best we can do. But even if it is, this is a terrible executuon of that strategy. You have to look like you are trying to stop it to be able to run on the issue in 2008. This does not look like they are trying to stop it and it will REALLY not look like it when they continue to cave in as they will.

    Chris talks about organizing to stop the NEXT bill which he must know will surely come down the pike.

    Too late. Once you say "218, best we can do" you can not retrace those steps.

    As I wrote, this was a major loss, politically and policywise, for what will happen in the future.

    Calvinball vs Chess (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by TexDem on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 12:22:11 PM EST
    Yesterday on dkos Lithium Cola post a diary trying present the progressive/out of Iraq caucus vs the DLC/Blue Dogs/leadership position with an attempt to project what Bush would do. Some one brought up Calvinball instead of Chess and I think this best describes how Bush/Rove play the game.

    I think the Dems, no matter how you present it are getting played. I think Bush is going to sign the bill. He gets his funding and a clear run until September 2008. After that he really doesn't care it's not his problem anymore.

    This kind of move is typical Rove they moved the target and changed the focus of the argument and by doing so got the Dems to pass funding. They don/t play by the rules because they make the rules as they go. And as soon as you think you figured out the rules they've already changed.

    Not to mention moving the Overton Window on funding. Instead of talking about not funding the discussion became about what kind of funding and any discussion on funding is a win for the WH.


    Or a case of Brer Rabbit (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by TexDem on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 12:38:06 PM EST
    Bush says; "I'll veto this bill if you do that." All the time wanting them just to pass some sort of  funding.

    Would you like some more comparisons? Give me time, rebuttal comparisons is what I do, some timeless some ad lib.


    The other problem with the 2008 strategy (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Demi Moaned on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 07:19:14 AM EST
    is that it assumes the war will look pretty much the same then as it does now.

    But it's a very unstable situation and if a full-blown regional war develops, it could be 10 times harder to get out than it is now.

    And if it looks like we do have to stay, it doesn't give the Democrats much to run on.


    If (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by Edger on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 10:54:48 AM EST
    If you could secretly tell a magic genie "Yes" and suffer horribly and die but save the lives of a million people you've never met, would you say No? This one they don't even ask in philosophy school, much less Congress. But let's think about it for a minute. What's the worst fate a Congress Member could face as a result of voting against funding the war? For most it must be the loss of their seat. How horrible is that? Some of these congress members are freshmen, first elected last November campaigning on promises to end the war. Now they're prepared to vote $100 billion for the war in hopes of getting elected again in 2008. What in the hell did they want to get elected for in the first place? What district is going to receive less money if we end the war and redirect our spending to useful projects than if we continue the war but fund special pieces of pork here and there?
    A Measure of Morality in Congress
    by David Swanson, March 22, 2007 via OpEdNews

    Good piece (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 10:55:59 AM EST
    Four of... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Edger on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 11:03:23 AM EST
    ...the bill's most consistent critics said Thursday they had told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi they would help round up support despite their intention to vote against it.

    "Despite my steadfast opposition, I have told the speaker that I will work with her to obtain the needed votes to pass the supplemental, but that in the end I must vote my conscience," said Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif.


    That strikes me as funny (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 11:16:30 AM EST
    What do they say?

    I have principles and can't vote for this but you don't so go vote for it?


    Friendship with the Speaker? (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by cal11 voter on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 11:20:52 AM EST
    Desire to see the Pelosi's speakership succeed?

    Miss my pooint (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 01:04:40 PM EST
    How does someone voting No lobby someone to vote Yes.

    Apparently allowing each to vote however they... (none / 0) (#22)
    by cal11 voter on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 02:46:54 PM EST
    wish individually without concern for the caucus.  It appears they all didn't share the same consciousness.

    by securing a commitment from Pelosi (none / 0) (#24)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 03:03:05 PM EST
    that War opponents will be well represented on the Conference Committee.

    What good is that (none / 0) (#25)
    by Edger on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 03:12:00 PM EST
    if they work to line up opposing votes to their own? Besides to them personally?

    I don't know (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Edger on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 11:36:34 AM EST
    if I want to go down that line of thought too far...
    The progressive Democratic Members of Congress who had been considering trying to kill the supplemental bill that includes binding language to end the war made a deal with Speaker Pelosi to provide the necessary votes to pass the legislation. This is a principled and shrewd move that these lawmakers should be applauded for if and when the bill passes.

    Funny for Sure (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by terryhallinan1 on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 11:25:46 AM EST
    Often difficult to underestimate the intelligence of voters.  A local Democrat, Eric Massa, lost to a Republican who named the response to Katrina as an example of the fine work of the Bush Administration.

    Would voters punish a Democrat who voted against the war they despise and want ended?

    Never know for sure.

    The logic of voting for more war as a "good" because the others would anyway escapes me.

    Best,  Terry

    I was thinking about this in bed this morning (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by mentaldebris on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 11:56:41 AM EST
    (how pathetic is that?). The problem I have, and I suspect everyone against the bill has is absolute: The Dems suck at politics, especially against this deceitful bunch of professional crooks and liars.

    The legislation was a risky move. It's nice to think the end game is Bush and the thugs looking like obstructionists, but as you noted above, the GOP and Bush are playing politics too, and they have proven to be very good at it. Masters, in fact.

    It seems a large swath of the netroots has the belief that with power comes wisdom. Can I get a "heh" here?

    So in the game of political chess I harken back to a scene in the movie "Searching For Bobby Fischer" where the teacher watching two champions notes that a mistake has been made.

    That was a mistake.
    What was a mistake?
    Who made a mistake?
    Look deep, Josh. It's there.

    The problem is the rethugs always look deep and the Democrats rarely do. If the thugs can exploit this (and it is exploitable) they will.

    I'd love more than anything to be proven wrong on this. I'd love it if with power magically comes wisdom, but past behavior on the part of the Dems makes it difficult to see a positive outlook when the Dems sit down at the political chess board. The thugs outplay them so often it's pathetic. Maybe they're due to win one. I just don't think this is it.

    However, DOJgate is looking promising at the moment.

    Of course, Bush could be petulant enough to veto it anyway. He has proven he doesn't give a damn about the party and he's an idiot. That way the GOP wins by the passage, but Bush gets the blame for the obstruction. Frankly, I hope this is how it turns out. But I suspect, Bush will issue a signing statement, take the money and run.

    More than one (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Edger on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 12:42:11 PM EST
    "with power comes wisdom". Heh...

    The GOP plays chess (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 01:03:26 PM EST
    and the Dems are still looking for the checkers.

    In 30 years of training (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Edger on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 01:18:56 PM EST
    I can't count the number of role playing sessions we've done drilling it into saales people to anticipate and preempt objections from prospects.

    Neither fits perfectly (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 01:51:10 PM EST
    For behind the 2 Party game is one that's multiplayer.

    iraq bill (3.00 / 1) (#20)
    by diogenes on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 01:50:25 PM EST
    Tell me exactly how putting 25 billion dollars of pork in this bill is going to help the image of the Democratic congress?
    If Bush calls their bluff and signs the bill, what congress will pull out suddenly in September of 2008?  They'll pass a supplemental bill, and then they can try their luck with Hillary whose current position seems to be to stay in Iraq indefinitely.
    Bush should veto it because of the pork and let the Democrats be labeled as wasteful spenders.

    links please (none / 0) (#26)
    by Sailor on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 03:37:37 PM EST
    to the $25B in pork.

    Gee, I wonder if Denver (none / 0) (#18)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 01:36:35 PM EST
    still wants the Democratic convention in town next year? Is this not the very same scenario that led to the Days of Rage, the SDS, The Weather Underground?

    There'll be antiwar protests in Denver, (none / 0) (#23)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 03:00:34 PM EST
    but they need not fit the Chicago '68 model.

    This depends on how they're managed by the City. If there's an over the top effort to keep them far from the Convention, it gets bad. Allow staging within line of sight, keep police riot gear nearby but out of view, and have prominent Party figures participate, and it cn stay mellow.

    (I attribute a significant part of the 2000 Nader vote to the failure to leash the LAPD during the week of the Convention that year as well. Boston did better.)


    OTOH (none / 0) (#19)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 01:37:43 PM EST
    You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.