Iraq Supplemental: "Where Do We Go From Here?"

Where do we go from here? The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer. Where do we go from here? -From Joss Whedon's "Once More With Feeling"

I'm stealing my title line from both Joss Whedon and mcjoan, whose fine piece on the Iraq Supplemental reflects a lot of what I think, but stated in her usual persuasive manner, as opposed to my shrill one. Joan writes:

My very pragmatic observation of the Iraq supplemental was that in cobbling together a bill that could make it through the House and set up the veto showdown with Bush, the leadership was setting a very, very low baseline with the Blue Dogs, negotiating away too much substance. . . . It's . . . unclear . . . as to how that fits in to the larger battle plan to make significant progress on actually getting the troops out.

I agree with this but I think it does not go far enough. I think this is ALSO a terrible political move. I'll explain it all on the flip.

The common idea is that Bush will veto the House bill. That notion is central to Markos' argument in support of this bill. And Bush said today about the House bill:

"I will veto it if it comes to my desk."

But the House bill WON'T come to his desk. Something worse will:

House members will be voting on the bill knowing that the [withdrawal] deadline will almost surely be removed by the Senate when it votes on the measure next week. Senate Democrats were able to muster only 48 votes last week, well short of the 60 needed, for a weaker version of the deadline idea, one that would have set as a "goal" the withdrawal of almost all U.S. forces by March 2008.

What Markos and the Netroots do 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.

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.

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 the strategy that id left is what Markos is talking about. This is the only rational justification for supporitng the bill:

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.

But 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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    In sum, the March message is fine, but (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by fairleft on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 12:49:30 PM EST
    the April and after message will be 'Dems go along with Bush on Iraq'.

    why is it that you could see this and others, even (5.00 / 7) (#2)
    by conchita on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:04:35 PM EST
    including me, could as well, yet so many fell for the must pass the resolution mantra?  as a whole it seems this side has been gamed yet again.  gives me a whole new perspective on why gore hasn't announced - maybe he's figured out that it's just not worth it.  better to focus on something which he can be significantly effective. i have wished so many times for his leadership in this next election, but after this display i can understand why he might not want to go there again.  call me a purity troll, concern troll, whatever.  i'd rather be principled than craven and political, always been a kantian before a utilitarian.  

    They are still celebrating (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:18:32 PM EST
    They do not see it yet.

    Let's hear the excuse making a few weeks from now.


    mcjoan sees it. (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by dkmich on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:33:52 PM EST
    She has something up on the front page of dk right now.

    Heh (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:34:46 PM EST
    You mean the post I link to in my post?

    You and your groupie purity trolls. : ) (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by dkmich on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 02:00:33 PM EST
    Yes, and this one from Jane, FDL   I'm not use to this site, and I can't see the link to Jane.  Here it is again, in case.   http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/03/23/oh-the-irony/

    a few weeks from now.... (5.00 / 4) (#20)
    by selise on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 05:06:10 PM EST
    as i've said before, i also think yesterday's vote was both stupid and immoral... and for reasons very similar to yours...

    but i am hoping that, a few weeks from now, i will be proved completely wrong. i really, really want to be wrong on this.


    Wish I knew the answer to that one too (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 05:07:44 PM EST
    Could it be that by and large we also suffer from believing that we can create reality as we go along?

    this is the same scenario (5.00 / 8) (#3)
    by profmarcus on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:11:07 PM EST
    that's playing out with the justice department and gonzales... if both the senate and the house -  the judiciary committees and a majority of the membership of both houses - don't take the strongest position possible, no negotiation, no attempts at "reasonable bipartisanship," no compromising on public testimony under oath, no backing away from the inevitable confrontation and constitutional crisis, we might just as well hang up any thoughts of putting stoppers on unfettered executive power for the rest of bush's term and, very likely, far down the road into the future... some people just can't get it through their heads that trying to play ball with the most unscrupulous, unethical, machiavellian characters to ever darken the white house door, just does not work...

    And, yes, I DO take it personally

    Which game are we playing here? (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Sanity Clause on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:18:22 PM EST
    I agree that it looks like the GOP is playing the political game better than the Dems when you look at what's likely to happen in the Senate and what W would do if anything like the House version were to reach his desk.  But are we playing chess, as the GOP blogger you cited yesterday claimed?  Can Pelosi and the Dems anticipate their opponents' next three moves?  Can we?

    On the other hand, we don't have to assume that the Senate is the next venue in this battle. I posit that this is not a chess match; the House bill is more akin to the first lemon meringue lobbed in a pie fight!  The GOP is poised on the brink of self-destruction; maybe they just need a little push.  We don't have to duke it out on the Senate floor.  The battle starts here and now, in the blogosphere and the media.  

    No matter how clever Bush's advisers may be, he is still the lamest of ducks in a party that wants to boot his lamp-shade-wearing ass out the door.  As more and more of his cronies fall by the wayside in the US Attorney firing scheme and cover-up, the Libby trial fallout, and his six year tenure of Keystone Kops corruption and incompetence continues to drag the GOP down, there is yet an opportunity to fight, and win, this battle in the headlines and on the evening news.  

    Whether or not the House bill has a chance in the Senate, if the story itself conveys the image of a new Democratic majority with a backbone, more and more rank and file Republic-rats are going to jump from that sinking ship.  

    Can we? (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:19:40 PM EST
    I just did.

    Watch the next weeks and you can come back and tell me I am an idiot or I was right.


    You're no idiot (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by JanL on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 01:41:46 PM EST
    I was and still am flumoxed as to what, as an idiot liberal long-time activist, I am supposed to do at this point.  My instincts tell me that Repub's are gonna have to start backing away from Bush and the war at some point or risk the whole 2008 enchilada.  And, the AG scandals and others will keep swirling and the pressure on the R's will increase if Dems don't back down. Big "if" in my mind.  My guess is when this gets vetoed it'll come back around in some other form, perhaps separated from the VA funding and other stuff, and so it will continue until the R's get the memo to step away from Bush sometime like next winter/spring. I think your plan was better but now it's too late, and Dems are gonna own at least part of this fiasco by then. I'm one of those door-knocking, phone-calling, money-giving types and at this point I'm gonna do some work for Russ Feingold and keep my powder dry.  (BTW, there is a video of David Obey going postal on Fred Hiatt at TPM if you haven't checked it out.  I'm still sore from his tirade and this made me feel better.)

    I think you answered yourself there, JanL (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Edger on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 02:27:42 PM EST
    Repub's are gonna have to start backing away from Bush and the war at some point or risk the whole 2008 enchilada.

    That's part of their chess game. They aren't and won't have to back away (the administration anyway) - it will look like they are the closer Pelosi et al come to owning it, I think.

    but now it's too late, and Dems are gonna own at least part of this fiasco by then.

    I think Big Tent has it nailed. They just about own it now... they will if Bush vetos and they come back with a weaker bill. It's Pelosi risking the whole 2008 enchilada. She's either not up to going toe to toe with them, or... she's on their side.

    Sadly, you're right (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by JanL on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 02:34:38 PM EST
    It's just so beyond sad to me at this point, I guess I don't want to believe it yet.  I have walked around all week wondering what the heck Pelosi & the gang were thinking.  The Democrats only hope at this point is that the R's will be so badly damaged by all the scandals that they look good in comparison.  That's weak and craven and sickening.  And our kids in Iraq & Afghanistan will pay an ugly price in either case.  

    It's kind of sickening (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Edger on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 03:05:06 PM EST
    And unbelieveable too. You'd think just having the smarts to become speaker she'd have figured out how to play the game. What I find really difficult is the though that maybe she has, and she is on their side. I hope not, but it would explain a lot. If so then everybody is being played for fools.

    "Where Do We Go From Here?", indeed.

    Torch and pitchfork time?

    It's worser than we think... (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by JanL on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 03:26:32 PM EST
    ..if Pelosi et. al. think they ARE playing smart politics here.  About a week ago, someone at dkos posted an interview with Brian Schweitzer on Charlie Rose's show.  If Schweitzer is right, we are never going home.  So the unthinkable is now actually the Democrat's position?  My head hurts and spins, all at the same time.  I'm too weak at this point to carry a pitchfork!  Blech!

    Personally? (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by Edger on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 04:00:42 PM EST
    I don't think there are any plans, or intentions, to ever leave Iraq....


    He called it too, Big Tent.... (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Edger on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 05:21:28 PM EST
    When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.

    A union leader who said, "Take this, it's the best we can get" (which is what the MoveOn people are saying about the Democrats' resolution) would be hooted off the platform.

    Except for the rare few, like Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, and John Lewis, our representatives are politicians, and will surrender their integrity, claiming to be "realistic."
    Howard ZinnToday: "Are We Politicians or Citizens?"

    Russ isn't up 'til 2010. (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 02:43:25 PM EST
    Nat'l. Wildlife Refuges (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by JanL on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 02:52:59 PM EST
    Feingold is working to maintain money for these refuges, and since I'm on his email list and I do a fair amount of camping & hiking, I'm in with this cause. Yes, I'm one of those tree-hugging idiot liberals.  

    i was thinking similarly today - to throw my (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by conchita on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 04:20:21 PM EST
    energy into environmental/energy.  what jerome, adam seigel, meteor blades, mataliandy, etc. have done at dkos is pretty impressive.  i joined their yahoo group and it is amazing how many good diaries are being written on the environment and energy.  i need to put some of my energy there where it might make a difference.

    otoh, in the comments to mcjoan's post, when i was reading a few hours ago, she talks about the netroots devoting more attention to the blue dogs.  i agree, but i also think that we need, as a group (if that's possible) to also support the progressives so that they never question that we are behind them.  i don't know if this is possible, as i am not in public relations, but i wonder if we could create a media buzz about that specific support.  perhaps the out of iraq blogger caucus could become a focal point from which we build.  just thinking aloud, but i guess my point is that as much as i want to give up and walk away right now and just go back to making and spending money, i can't.  i don't think the state of the world allows that luxury anymore.  


    But (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 04:05:09 PM EST
    if the goal was simply to get those headlines saying "Dems try to end Iraq War' so that all those low-information voters think Dems are trying to end the war (without of course doing anything that might actually risk ending the war), they've succeeded.

    I think they're going to expend a great deal of effort to keep that spin going in the media. You seem to think they're not going to get away with this game. Well they might not with a few bloggers, but as far as the mass public goes in 2008, I think Dems are going to be happy enough with the results to call it a success.

    Look how well they're managing it so far: Democrats: Bill reflects voters' demands

    When the bill gets eviscerated in the Senate or vetoed, they'll be able to pull off blaming it on the Republicans and run on it. So where's the downside? (As long as you're not an Iraqi of course, or an Iranian, or a grunt in the military, or a US taxpayer...) Not sure where you think things are going to go wrong for them on this, as long as you don't hold on to any silly ideas about them actually reining in the warmongers or anything.

    I know any significant support for a third party on the left could be fatal for Dem chances in 2008, but longer term it may be the only way to deal with the dynamics that are making the party so self-destructively conflicted and so resistant to change. I'm starting to consider the idea of looking to another party seriously for the first time.

    Headlines today trumped by (none / 0) (#28)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 06:20:06 PM EST
    Bush signing a funding bill in a couple of months is a bad bargain.

    Not necessarily (none / 0) (#32)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 07:29:48 PM EST
    Even if that happens, Dems will just keep on saying the bill has teeth and sets a new direction in Iraq. In the current media environment and lack of public interest in delving into the details, most people will never learn otherwise. Except the war will go on, and it'll be Bush's fault for ignoring the "plan" and the "will of the people." Kabuki at its finest.

    However bets are off if it's the Blue Dogs who end up being the ones who do the final defanging in the Senate. That might make it a mite hard for Dems to spin with a straight face though I expect they'd keep trying anyway.


    interesting email from true majority (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by conchita on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 05:16:28 PM EST
    it seems this vote has struck a chord.

    Dear sharon,

    This is not one of TrueMajority's usual action alerts. I'm sending this only
    to a few of our most active Iraq War activists, like you. We need your
    guidance, and I hope you'll take a moment to give me your opinion.

    As you probably know, the debate among Democrats in Congress over the Iraq
    War Supplemental funding bill last week was agonizing. You were one of the
    people who called in to Congress urging that your member vote against the
    bill. Some progressive members did oppose the bill, but others voted for it,
    believing that the troop pullout requirements in it are the best option
    available right now for moving toward an end to the war. The funding bill
    passed by a razor-thin margin on Friday.

    We feel like it's important for those of us whose conscience and judgement
    led them to opposite sides of this debate reunite ourselves now that the
    vote is over. Together, we could tackle the bigger obstacles to better
    anti-war legislation -- the Republicans and the conservative Democrats who
    oppose any limits on the President's war. But I need to know how you feel
    about it. So here's the question:

    Should TrueMajority join in a public campaign to hold these pro-war
    lawmakers accountable, even if it means partnering with people who fought to
    approve the war funding bill?

    This isn't a simple question, so we aren't offering a simple "yes/no"
    button. I hope you'll take a moment to send a reply to poll@truemajority.org
    and give me your thoughts. We need to make this decision soon, so please
    reply today if you can.

    And thanks for all of your hard work. The tide IS turning.

    Matt Holland
    Online Director

    How would you reply? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by conchita on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 06:30:20 PM EST
    Should TrueMajority join in a public campaign to hold these pro-war lawmakers accountable, even if it means partnering with people who fought to approve the war funding bill?

    Feel free to answer at:  poll@truemajority.org.

    I, too, am curious to hear what others here think.  I told them only if it meant that progressives would not find themselves forced to abandon their convictions and that I would prefer to build the progressive caucus and bring others on board rather than dilute it.


    Me? (none / 0) (#31)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 07:13:26 PM EST

    Have read the comments (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 05:23:12 PM EST
    about rechanneling energy where it is likely to do something from here.  I can't say that I blame anyone either.  We have another year and a half in and if we are still up to our asses in this Iraq mess my spouse won't be signing on to help rebuild the military.  It is a very hard position to be in because America must have some sort of military.  I shudder to think what will become of the remaining young men and women in our forces as the days in Iraq progress.  I also shudder to think what kind of people would want to make up our armed forces if we never leave Iraq, who could operate 20 years under serving rotations in Iraq and knowing that was on the menu going in?  I would think they would be some very scary human beings.  The truth though as is today is that the Army is broken and the Marines are broken and sure they can be broken even more...committed soldiers that are all volunteer will be like that if they have remained.  It's going to be ugly though, utterly the ugliest thing I will likely witness in my lifetime thanks to the fights that my parents and those who went before me fought.  This will be my generations ugly narcissistic monster straight from hell, to find it just look into an American soldier's eyes.

    Still sending $$... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by JanL on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 05:54:22 PM EST
    to the USO and IAVA.  At this point, if you have better advice on where to send troop help, please let me know.  I've also sent phone cards and will continue that, as well.
    I'm just not sending any candidate any money for now, unless you count Feingold's Refuge request.  
    You and yours have my respect and gratitude.  xo

    I like IVAW as well (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 06:29:10 PM EST
    They are very savvy, ethical, and work their asses off.  They organize well and they get to the hot spots to fight the PR fight.  You have found the best places for your money, I don't know many other places where you are likely to get the same payoff for your buck.

    All is not lost (none / 0) (#25)
    by LarryE on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 05:32:24 PM EST
    One possibility is that the bill will emerge from the Senate and a subsequent conference committee so weakened that Bush will sign it. At that point, we're pretty much screwed.

    (Not that we wouldn't have been if the House bill was actually enacted: One of my complaints about the House bill was that it would not have been the "first step" its supporters claimed but the only step, with later attempts to tighten it getting dismissed on the grounds that there "is a program in place" with timetables, benchmarks, and other assorted blah blah.)

    But suppose it does get vetoed or fails to pass Congress for some reason. Then there are some options. For example:

    • A supplemental gets introduced. Something like the Lee amendment is voted on but gets only, say 100 votes. The "clean" bill goes to Bush - but it only provides funding for three months. If Bush wants more, he has to come back and ask again. That time, Lee gets, I dunno, maybe 150-170 votes as public discontent continues to rise. And so on.

    • Bush gets his "clean" bill, providing $100b through next September, but he doesn't get it all at once: It comes in installments, each of which has to be approved by Congress. And it's actually up to $100b, as Congress can choose to release all or only some of each installment, depending on benchmarks and public opinion - or it could even refuse to release any of it.

    So there could be ways - I'm sure these are not the only ones folks could think of - to continue the legislative fight while we also continue the broader in-the-streets and over-the-kitchen-table fights.

    One other thought: Whether passing this bill in the House proves to be a "terrible political move" or not will depend on spin and perception. If the meme becomes "Democrats fumble, Bush triumphs" or "Dems want to 'micromanage' conflict," Dems lose. If it becomes "Dems struggle to overcome Bush's resistance to ending his war," Dems win.

    "One possiblity" (none / 0) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 06:04:17 PM EST
    is one certainty.

    I agree... (none / 0) (#33)
    by LarryE on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 01:30:47 AM EST
    ...that's the most likely outcome at this point; I'm not willing to go to "certainty" yet, since some of the provisions, like the training/equipment/rest one, might be hard to vote to strip out. And even though they can be waived, Bush still might veto a bill that contained any restrictions, even symbolic ones, on his God-given right to be King.