Iraq, the Supplemental and Democrats: What the Future Holds

In defense of Move On, which I view as a largely red herring issue that distracts frm the discussion of themerits of the Dem moves that some endorse, Matt Stoller also makes some statements about how the thinks the Iraq supplemental funding bill will play for Dems politically:

[T]here is handwringing about whether the Democrats will 'own the war' in 2008 because they will ultimately end up voting for military funding. I don't think so. Just look at the Pew poll to see whether Democrats own the war -. . . the public knows that this legislation will run up against a temper tantrum from Bush, and doesn't see it as a particularly big game-changer one way or the other. . . . Democrats will not own the war in a political sense, because Democrats by and large oppose it and Republicans do not. People aren't stupid.

Yes, people are NOT that stupid. They know that a Pew poll that reflects upon the attitudes expressed by an out of power Democratic Party, NOT the actions a Democratic Congress. Matt must be kidding to cite that Pew poll as predictive of what will happen. Ironically, Atrios put his finger on what the problem is with the Iraq supplemental funding bill:

The ultimate irony is Atrios' link to Peter Beinart (of all people) makes the exact point those of us opposed to the Iraq supplemental were making:

The real danger for Democrats in the Iraq debate isn't that they'll oppose the war too aggressively; it's that they won't oppose it aggressively enough. . . . If the public doesn't like what you stand for, then you should probably adjust your views. But if the public doesn't believe you stand for anything, then you had better show them that you do. That's the problem the Democratic Party faces today. And the solution is to end the war in Iraq.

Atrios titles his post "The Education of Peter Beinart." In light of his previous post on the Iraq supplemental, what not a better title be "When Will the Netroots Be Educated?"

I think Matt Stoller is in need of the same education.

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    Hello BTD (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by CanadianBill on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 03:14:30 PM EST
    I'm glad to see you have not lost your fire :>)

    This is an off topic comment.....

    I asked Elise to say hello for me and she suggested I'd find you here.  I don't know if you remember a comment you made to me about 'being able to write'.  I began a series, which has done surprisingly well.  It has now evolved to my deciding to write a book on the subject.  Which is not to say it will be published, but that's a worry for later.  I'll be 'cutting way back online' for awhile to do it, but I wanted to tell you, and thank you.  Sometimes people have no idea how one comment can affect another person in a positive way.  - Bill

    Terrific CB (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:00:21 PM EST
    Digby's take: sausage making (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Compound F on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 03:16:04 PM EST
    and "Liberal ballast:"

    Legislative sausage making is always somewhat unnerving to watch, but this one actually went quite well by historic standards. The progressives used all of their clout to get as strong a bill as possible and quite a few of the Blue Dogs made the hard choice to vote with the party. The Democratic party is a coalition not a monolith and the fact that they were able to get a bill with virtually everyone on board is a testament to the party's strength not its weakness.

    It's very, very difficult for the congress to stop a war. The system is designed to allow the president to run them once the people have signed off and abruptly pulling the plug on funding is a very dicey move. Therefore, defunding is a process --- members of any coalition that leads on such difficult legislation always tend to come together incrementally through various means. We all wish it could happen quickly, but there is simply no precedent for it and no simple means of making that happen...

    ...This is hideous sausage making, but it's the way our system works. I would suggest that the proposed Lee Amendment (the bill that was discussed ad nauseum, but never actually presented) performed the same function as the "McGovern-Hatfield" Amendment in this negotiation by holding down the left flank and allowing the "moderate" bill to emerge. That's the necessary first step.

    If it is such a process, it is unnerving indeed, and difficult to justify.  Zugzwang?


    Digby is (3.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 04:59:58 PM EST
    really not making sense.

    I was curious to find out how the sausage (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by mentaldebris on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 07:05:10 PM EST
    making went down for Vietnam and found this.

    So while I might agree with Digby on the ugliness of sausage making, I don't think we have anywhere near the political courage (that even some of the Vietnam era politicians were lacking at first) or savvy in Washington today to take on this corrupt administration.  

    The thugs are beyond hope (Hagel brings up impeachment? Ha! He never misses an opportunity to bend over for Bush -- he's a dramatic publicity-seeking Specter at best) and the risk-adverse Dems can't seem to make a move without the input of out-of-touch political consultants and focus groups obviously made up of the most dense voters living on the planet.

    I did agree wholeheartedly with the author of the linked piece on this point:

    Today, members from both parties would benefit by looking back at the history of Congress in the Vietnam era. As Congress struggles over how to correct a failed military policy and how to deal with an administration that is refusing to change course, legislators need to draw on their resources -- in the tradition of Fulbright, Church, McGovern, Cooper, Hatfield, and others -- despite the political risks. The real risk would be for Congress to capitulate and fail to act on its disagreement with the administration. The costs of the war in Iraq have been enormous, as financial and military resources, and human lives, are drained away. If voters go the polls in 2008 with the same fire in their bellies they had in 2006, the electoral costs will also be high for incumbents who failed to act on their beliefs.

    I think those costs applies to the Democrats as well as the republicans. Gee I hope the evangelicals decide to start a viable (heh) third party.


    perhaps the costs will accrue to both parties, (none / 0) (#19)
    by Compound F on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 09:39:23 PM EST
    but they accrue to Republicans first, and Democrats appear to be titrating blame assignment for optimal effect in 2008.  Meanwhile, the illegal war continues unabated, and the war may spread into Iran.  Negligent and risky games.

    The inherent problem here is that (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by mentaldebris on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 03:31:35 PM EST
    while the Democrats may be winning the current PR skirmish (and thus all the premature celebrating in the netroots), the (I think) legitimate concern is they've set themselves up to lose the bigger PR war and become co-owners of Iraq in the process.

    Let's face it, the public is smart enough and impatient enough to know when the election comes slamming down the pike and nothing has changed in Iraq (unless some smart thugs realize that taking the reins and loudly introducing legislation to end the war closer to the election might help them pull off the comeback party of the decade while the Dems are forced to go along)the voters are going to blame the party "in charge". Those short attention spans might pin it on Bush but the press will help push the meme - "Hey, why didn't the Democrats end the war?" "What were they waiting for?"

    The thugs have learned that you start by asking for the ridiculous pie-in-the-sky dream and accepting what you truly were after in the first place. You move the window and the unacceptable suddenly becomes acceptable because you started off by asking for something ludicrous:

    Give me a $100.
    Okay, give me $50.
    In your dreams.
    Okay, loan me $20.
    I can do that.

    Democrats have yet to learn that technique. They also don't seem to understand that bunnies compromising with coyotes always end up as bunny tartare.

    By caving so soon they've won nothing except the ability to say they've passed something. All they have to celebrate is a fleeting PR win. Woo Hoo! High fives!

    The basic problem is they hold a weak hand (sadly it's the hand they've dealt themselves after stacking the deck with Blue Dog jokers) and it's highly possible the thugs will call their bluff.

    I sincerely hope Bush does throw his little pissy party or the legislation stalls in the Senate. IOW, I hope this PR victory for the Democrats sustains itself for a while longer and they are forced to start again. Then they can set up another PR victory and paint the thugs and Bush as obstructionists to the will of the majority of Americans.

    I mean, how freaking hard is it to tell America you are supporting the troops by passing legislation that funds pulling them out? That our job is done there and the Iraqis need to run their own country?  

    Or can they corner the thugs? By keeping the compromises so high and the expectations so low, can they construct stronger legislation and continuing pushing the administration and the thugs into more concrete action when the system is set up to obstruct any movement on Iraq? Do they have the courage or the political will?

    In regards to the current legislation my fear is the Senate will compromise further, the House will still want to maintain their "victory", and in the end Bush gets his money with virtually no strings attached. Everyone pats each other on the back while more bodies get stuck in the grinder.

    As much as I'd love to see Pelosi stating an unequivocal, "No, absolutely not." when the bill comes back ripped apart by the Senate, it just doesn't seem likely. Hang on to that "win" and hope the voters don't notice. In the end Bush gets what he wanted in the first place and the Dems will share the war that they helped keep alive because they "didn't have the votes".

    They may not have the votes but they do have the public and instead of compromising their goal should be painting the thugs as sole owners of this war and the only ones determined to sacrifice our soldiers and piss away our tax dollars for nothing more than Halliburton's bottom line, the oil company's security and profits, and Bush's legacy.

    Kind of doubt this will be the strategy given the execution I'm seeing so far. But I'm a cynical, pessimistic, amateur liberal, so what do I know?

    Tough to watch & figure out. (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by walt on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 04:14:39 PM EST
    Pelosi & Hoyer whipped exactly the 218 needed to assure passage of the Iraq supplemental.  They let some Out of Iraq caucus members take cover & vote "no" to maintain street credibility that they really are against the occupation & the debacle.

    Speaker Pelosi is both smart & astute . . . so I'm tempted to keep searching for the twist, the hook, or the angle in letting this piece of crap legislation move toward mark-up, conference committee & the senate.  For me, this does not jibe with stated goals by the Democratic Party leadership or the apparent opinions of most USA voters.  It's illogical & counter-intuitive.

    the goal is to support occupation while appearing (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by fairleft on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 04:58:53 PM EST
    to oppose it. So far so good, but give it a month.

    When the Dems cave and let Bush have his bill, the Dems will still say they oppose the occupation, still thinking most of the public will still believe them.

    They'll be wrong, but I guess if they can fool at least a medium-sized minority of us they'll pat themselves on the back for doing their best in a nearly impossible situation..


    Lipstick on a Pig (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by leoncarre on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:10:22 PM EST
    stoller also says:
    I don't know if the supplemental is a major step forward or not.  I know it won't end the war, since this was has been coming for sixty years and is part and parcel of a militaristic political structure that we must and are working to disassemble within both parties.  But it is a major step forward in terms of our movement, as we affirmatively passed a significant piece of legislation through a House which, while full of some new blood, saw its Democratic membership grow by only 20% in 2006.  Moveon was true to its members in helping this happen

    I found plenty wrong with the Iraq Supplemental, without MoveOn's aid, without MyDD's insight, without "prejudice aforehand" from Pelosi and the beltway Dems.

    And no, the inclusion of the "spinach fund" did not help one little bit.

    I found it by reading the bloody thing... and bloody it is.

    Iraq Supplemental: Continue to Fund a Hopeless Situation Until A Date Uncertain

    Is it too much too late to ask that when people discuss this bill that they refer to its particulars???

    Language Removed From the Iraq Supplemental that Pelosi PROMISED She Would Take Up At A Later Time:

    The (Iraq Supplemental) funds can be used for attacking Iran, since the final version removed language saying the president had to get authorization from Congress before attacking Iran.

    Screw MoveOn and the "progressive" horse it rode in on.

    MoveOn is now more interested in (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by Edger on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:34:17 PM EST
    the progression of MoveOn, it seems.

    And it seems they expect the anti-war movement to support them.

    That was suggested in a recent message from MoveOn, which polled its members on the Democrat proposal, saying that progressives in Congress, "like many of us, don't think the bill goes far enough, but see it as the first concrete step to ending the war."

    Ironically, and shockingly, the same bill appropriates $124 billion in more funds to carry the war.It's as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this with an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

    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.
    If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite--provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence--they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home.

    --Howard Zinn

    yes, you're quoting my favorite (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by leoncarre on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:41:32 PM EST
    Howard Zinn wrote some heartbreaking criticism of MoveOn and the Iraq Supplemental re: abolitionists

    From last wednesday (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Edger on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:45:39 PM EST
    Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is leading efforts to block the Supplemental bill in the House to fund the war. Here's a video (wmv) of her speaking about this at a rally on Sunday in Fresno, California. Here's a video (wmv) of David Swanson on the same topic at the same rally. Here's an edited video (Quicktime) that includes Woolsey, Swanson, and others. Here's a video (wmv) of part of the march through Fresno that preceded the rally. Videos courtesy of Mike Rhodes. Event sponsored by Peace Fresno. Here's current list of Congress Members planning to vote against funding the war.
    via AfterDowning Street

    The 14 Democrats who voted no were: (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Edger on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:50:32 PM EST
    John Barrow (Ga.),
    Dan Boren (Okla.),
    Lincoln Davis (Tenn.),
    Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio),
    Barbara Lee (Calif.),
    John Lewis (Ga.),
    Gene Taylor (Miss.),
    Jim Marshall (Ga.),
    Jim Matheson (Utah),
    Michael R. McNulty (N.Y.),
    Michael H. Michaud (Maine),
    Maxine Waters (Calif.),
    Diane Watson (Calif.)
    and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.).

    One thing the Future Holds (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Edger on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 06:10:13 PM EST
    is that these 14 can keep their seats as long as they want them.

    From the original Backbone article (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by leoncarre on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:21:01 PM EST
    "Lipstick on a Pig" above, refers to this article from the Backbone Campaign:

    "MoveOn did not point out that that the Pelosi's Supplemental Appropriation's bill:

    •  Will keep the war going well into 2008;
    •  It omits Rep.. Barbara Lee's amendment, which would have fully funded withdrawal by the end of the 2007;
    •  It gives the President the right to waive requirements that troops sent to Iraq must be properly trained, equipped and rested;
    •  The funds can be used for attacking Iran, since the final version removed language saying the president had to get authorization from Congress before attacking Iran.
    •  And finally, MoveOn neglects to tell its members how absurd it is to give George Bush another $100 billion for war when there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq."

    $124 Billion to Put Lipstick on a PIG?! NO WAY!
    by Backbone Campaign
    March 19, 2007 at 16:56:56

    the Mark Lane cartoon (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by leoncarre on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 06:05:40 PM EST
    Tom Engelhart writes this week in (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by conchita on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 07:06:25 PM EST
    Under the many conflicts between George W. Bush and most of his opponents in the Democratic and Republican parties lies an area of agreement seldom challenged in the mainstream political or media world (or, when challenged, given remarkably little attention). On the deepest points, major politicians and the most influential parts of the media are actually in remarkable accord. In fact, you could say that, in the world of our media gatekeepers, there's just another version of the sort of accord that existed before the invasion of Iraq.

    Although the focus of his article is on why more Americans are not out protesting, I found this paragraph right on point.  The sad truth is that most of the political establishment, Dems included, are not in fact against the war.  That the House just passed this resolution bears witness.

    He continues, pointing to Hillary Clinton as an example and talks about an aspect of the resolution I haven't heard touched on here or other online communities - chances are because the actual text of the resolution was seldom if ever quoted (I can't help but wonder if the House actually kept it from us while they added the pork):

    That country, it is said, is crucial to "American interests" -- "vital national security interests in Iraq" was the way, for instance, Hillary Clinton put the matter recently. There is also agreement (as there was about such things in the Vietnam era) that if we were to leave Iraq totally or "precipitously," American credibility would take a terrible hit, that the terrorists would be "celebrating." It is similarly agreed that, while all sorts of partial withdrawals from Iraq might sooner or later be possible, actually withdrawing from the country is hard to imagine, even if staying seems hardly less so. This is why, as in the recently passed House legislation, withdrawal of all American forces has been replaced by the withdrawal of all, or most, American "combat troops" (or "combat brigades"), a technical term that actually accounts for less than half of American forces in Iraq.

    The two categories are now so conveniently blurred that it would be pardonable if few Americans grasped the difference any more than did Charles Gibson, anchor of ABC's World News Tonight. On last Friday's news, he claimed the House had voted to get "all U.S. forces" out when his own White House correspondent used the correct phrase, "combat forces."

    I think it goes to show that Washington does what it wants and has come to expect us to go along with it.  As a point of comparison Tom's piece talks about antiwar mobilisation during the Vietnam War and how protest in America seems to be "demobilized".  While he examines the role the draft played in 60s/70s, in the end he points to what I clearly felt last week after my phone calls, emails, etc.:

    Today, it crosses no young minds that the top officials in the White House might be listening. Many fewer young people, I suspect, have any remnant of that deep faith that our political system could be responsive to them or that anything they could do might change it. When they look to Washington, what they see is fraud, dysfunction, conspiracy, cronyism, cabal, influence-peddling, corruption, fear -- in short, a system, a world, beyond response, possibly beyond repair, and utterly alien to their lives. In such a situation, despair or apathy tends to replace anger and hope.

    The Iraq demobilization, then, is certainly part of a larger demobilization, a deeper belief that, as Bill Moyers made vividly clear in a recent speech, your vote doesn't matter; that democracy is a-functional; that none of this has anything to do with you, or your ballot, or your feet, or your sign, or your shout.

    In his conclusion, he wonders if in the same vein that the U.S. has sub-contracted the war to military contractors and  an enlisted corps of working class, small town, immigrant green-card America, have the many who in polls clearly state their desire to end the war in their own way sub-contracted their activism?  I can't help but wonder if this is why the antiwar folks who are part of the MoveOn machine didn't stop to question MoveOn's diction in its "poll" email and simply signed on.  I honestly wonder how many out there really understand what they are applauding in this vote.

    Great question, Conchita (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Edger on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 08:00:57 PM EST
    I honestly wonder how many out there really understand what they are applauding in this vote.
    Even in opposing it, and even given all the reading and digging I do, I often wonder if I really understand what those who supported the bill applauded by their vote, too. Much more than they did. Certainly I was under no illusions that it was a defunding or a real move to ending the debacle, but how much deeper than that there is to comprehend.

    We know the reasons for the invasion were controlling the oil supply and prices, but how many understand that we are in a collapsing economy and culture and that only by finding sources of energy to power the economy will the culture survive.

    As you quoted from TomDispatch:
    On the deepest points, major politicians and the most influential parts of the media are actually in remarkable accord. In fact, you could say that, in the world of our media gatekeepers, there's just another version of the sort of accord that existed before the invasion of Iraq.
    So they, Democratic and Republican pols, would have a common view and perhaps really do see a "clash of civilizations" that they feel they must win - just not the kind of clash they have tried to paint it as being with the WOT rhetoric.
    "American interests" -- "vital national security interests in Iraq" was the way, for instance, Hillary Clinton put the matter
    The easy (or just plain unimaginative, more likely) way, obviously, was to invade and set up shop in Iraq and turn it into a military garrison to prevent the thieved resources from being exploited by competing countries - rather than the more difficult way of real leadership and research and development of alternatives, or the even more difficult way of learning to see and work with the rest of the world as allies rather than the view of a hostile world in which the only way this culture could survive must be by destroying other cultures and peoples, and holding them down so far that their economies and cultures will not exert as much of a demand for resources as ours?

    I'm rambling and free associating here a bit - but I think you get the point.
    How is it that suddenly damned near every country with oil now poses an existential threat to America? They all want to destroy us. They all want to destroy American freedoms and democracy. They all hate us and don't want to play with us anymore. They all want to charge us more for oil.