The Dems' Bush-Iraq Problem

Update [2007-4-21 13:45:27 by Big Tent Democrat]: KagroX documents the Dem cavein. Yep, I told you so when I urged defeat of the House Iraq supplemental funding bill. Let's hope Bush vetoes. It is our only hope for ending the Debacle by 2008.

Jonathan Alter is one of the better journalists around, maybe one of the best. But he has lost his bearings on Iraq. On Keith Olbermann's program "Countdown" last night, he berated President Bush for leaving the "tough decision" of withdrawing from the Iraq Debacle for the next President and not a moment later criticized Democrats like me that believe the Congress should set a date certain for NOT funding the Iraq Debacle, in other words, Reid-Feingold. He calls the toothless approach of nonbinding benchmarks and timelines "shrewd" politics. Set aside the moral repugnancy of not ending the Debacle (funding a war for political purposes strikes me as one of the most reprehensible ideas I have ever heard), Alter has mislabeled the toothless so-called "ratcheting up the pressure" approach "shrewd." It is supremely stupid. And Jon Alter himself has explained why, as he did in his column urging Democrats to not fear Karl Rove's promise to run on "cut and run" in 2006:

Rove is focused again on what he does best: ginning up the slime machine. Anyone who dares criticize President Bush's Iraq policy is a "cut-and-run" Democrat. The White House's object here is not to engage in a real debate about an exit strategy from Iraq; that would require acknowledging some complications, like the fact that Gen. George Casey, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, believes it's time to start bringing some troops home. The object is instead to either get the Democrats tangled up in Kerryesque complexities on Iraq—or intimidate them into changing the subject to other, less-potent issues for fear of looking like unpatriotic pansies. These are the stakes: if Rove can successfully con Democrats into ignoring Iraq and reciting their laundry list of other priorities, Republicans win.

Alter thinks that a Democratic Congress can get away with just "talk" now. He is wrong. The country will now hold a Democratic Congress jointly responsible for Iraq if they do not end the Debacle.

Joe Klein makes a similar error and is rather disingenuous in the process. In his latest column, Joe writes:

[Bush] can do what he has done throughout—politicize the war, use it as a bludgeon against Democrats instead of trying to find common ground and thinking through the consequences of his intransigence. Best of all, he can do this secure in the knowledge that this is one battle he will surely win... even as the war shows many signs of worsening, including hundreds killed in Baghdad bombings this past week. The screeches you just heard—No! No! Klein, you Bush appeaser!—are coming from the left wing of the Democratic Party, which, despite its incredible erudition, is unable to count to 67, the number of votes needed for a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Right now the Senate Democrats are stuck at 51 in favor of their version of the $100 billion supplemental appropriation to pay for the war through Sept. 30. It's a version that posits March 2008 as a goal—not a deadline, just a goal—for troop withdrawal. The irony here is that Bush could sign this bill because it gives him implicit authority to revise the withdrawal date toward perpetuity.

Klein falls for the same thoughtlessness on the issue that Onbama and many Netroots bloggers do, the 67 votes fallacy:

This is the fundamental misunderstanding of how defunding can work. To enact any piece of legislation to defund the war, the following must occur. It must be passed by the House and Senate, and signed by the President OR approved by 2/3 of the House and Senate. I believe it is absurd to believe that either of these things will happen.

So how come I am so stridently for defunding? How would it work? I have had this to say about that before:

I want to address the central defense presented for Obama's opposition to defunding the Iraq Debacle, that legislative realities make it impossible. To wit:
. . . In the Senate you still need 60 votes. . .
Indeed, count up to 67 to overcome a Bush veto. And this is precisely why Obama is full of it on this. NO LEGISLATION ending the Iraq Debacle can overcome this reality. That is why Obama's proposal, Murtha's proposal, Sestak's proposal, etc. are all bullspit. I am for defunding the war because it requires precisely NO passage of any laws, rather the ensuring that no laws are passed that fund the Iraq Debacle. The defunding bar is in fact the lowest we can hurdle, and thus the one REALISTIC proposal for ending the Iraq Debacle.

Defunding is a plan to do nothing on funding Iraq after a date certain.

So much for Joe Klein's non-point. Klein continues:

But this is a President who won re-election by fomenting political confrontations, and he knows the Democrats are in a bind. They won't block funding for the troops. Only 9% of Americans say they are in favor of cutting off funds for the war, according to an April 13 cbs News poll. [This is false. That is the numbe rfor an IMMEDIATE cutoff of funding. 67% support cutting off funding BY March 2008. Klein is being dishonest here.] Unfortunately for the Democrats, that 9% includes the noisier elements of the party's base. Senator Barack Obama found this out the hard way recently, when he said in an Associated Press interview that perhaps the best course of action was to "keep the President on a shorter leash"—that is, approve funding but limit the funds, forcing Bush to keep coming back for money. This unleashed the ire of Markos Moulitsas Z�niga, proprietor of the Daily Kos blog, who wrote with typical restraint, "What a ridiculous thing to say. Not only is it bad policy, not only is it bad politics, it's also a terrible negotiating approach. Instead of threatening Bush with even more restrictions and daring him to veto funding for the troops out of pique, Barack just surrendered to him." Kos assumes Bush will negotiate. He may also assume there won't be severe consequences if Congress refuses to authorize funding and the U.S. thoughtlessly skedaddles from Iraq. But even Senators like Obama and Jim Webb, who opposed the war from the start, say the extrication must be careful and must involve far better planning than the Bush-Cheney invasion. Sadly, the left-wing Democrats and Bush are playing the same game—all or nothing—and, even more sadly, the President is destined to win.

And one assumes Joe Klein thinks that Bush will respond to "ratcheted up pressure." As Obama claims to. This is sheer nonsense.

Democrats MUST play all or nothing on this PRECISELY because Bush will. There is not other option. The issue is binary - support the Bush IRaq Debacle or not. The way to NOT support it is to set a date certain for ending the funding of it. Again, Reid-Feingold is the ONLY way.

Joe admits this:

Congressional Democratic leaders admit privately they'll give Bush his appropriation when the current Kabuki is over. The question is, What, if any, restraints can they put on funding for the troops? Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin says the next version of the bill should tie continued funding to progress on reforms the Iraqi government has promised and failed to meet: "We'll send him a bill with economic consequences for the Iraqis if they don't meet their own benchmarks in 60 to 90 days. The President says he favors those benchmarks. Let's see if he means what he says." . . . A number of Senators told me they thought the idea was "ingenious," but one of them said, "Sure, but do you think Bush will approve even that?" No, I don't, and it's a disgrace.

Sure it is a disgrace Joe. But so what? Bush is a disagrace in every way. Bush is playing ALL OR NOTHING Joe! You said so yourself. Levin, Obama, you and the entire Beltway seems not to get what that means.

Everyone except Feingold-Reid supporters.

Mark my words, Democrats will listen to the ignorant advice of the Alters and the Kleins and cave in to Bush on Iraq. And the result will be a political loser for Democrats who wilk reinforce their spineless image.

And unfortunately, it seems to be the substance as well as the image.

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    you're right, there is NO negotiation (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by profmarcus on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 02:19:15 PM EST
    i've been beating this dead horse for weeks, but... we MUST NOT FORGET that the bush administration laid out its unequivocal strategy for how it would respond to any congressional attempts at exercising oversight or exacting accountability BEFORE the november elections...
       In fact, when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."

    since the elections, the bush administration has demonstrated their unswerving commitment to carry out that threat and they are not about to back off until we throw them out...

    giving thoughtfully articulated, reasonable advice to the bush administration has proven to be a totally worthless exercise, and, after six-plus years, it's astonishing that anyone would even consider such a thing... picking up some republican votes is a craven coward's rationale and is disgusting in the extreme...

    this ploy is equivalent to the battered spouse, after the umpteenth beating, telling her husband she's going to leave if he doesn't stop... it's playing entirely into the administration's hands, giving them the space and, essentially, the permission to continue doing whatever they goddam well please with zero accountability... standing aside and wringing one's hands when the "nonbinding" deadlines come and go without action is worse than no accountability at all... it's the worst kind of sick co-dependency...

    And, yes, I DO take it personally

    I'm so angry I can't see straight (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 02:40:13 PM EST
    I have been doing this blogging thing now for awhile.  I took all sorts of abuse that it was okay for people to call my husband a murderer and a rapist and I just needed to be okay with that even though none of them would say they didn't need a military.  I have had people who claimed they were my friends challenge other very well known bloggers about calling out military family members that their soldiers were doing immoral things by getting on the plane to Iraq even though not doing so is jail for soldiers, and now those same friends are completely silent on all of this.  With friends like that who needs any enemies?

    Yes indeed (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:31:39 PM EST
    The silence in the blogs is deafening.

    There was a meanish sort of person (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:57:49 PM EST
    awhile back who called me the Armando of a certain blog out there.  I didn't take it as a cut.  I saw some of Armandos moments before and I wasn't ever put out, I suppose because I have had such moments myself and emotion is emotion and I'm a bit firey and alive.  I think I like that Jeralyn asks for no swearing so that this blog can be attainable for all and not filtered out, even though I am having a very hard time using my words right now.  I'm having one of those moments.  It's sort of nice even though the top of my head feels like it is going to sort of come off and sort of go through the roof of this kitchen I sit in. When I do find my words I won't have to run around soothing and apologizing for being emotional or offensive.  Now, I don't know when I'm going to be able to use my words because I have to find them first and they are surrounded by burning flames straight from hell.  When I hose my brain down though I'll find them in the smoking steaming embers, and they'll be right there free for the taking on the tip of my tongue.  

    'Smart' people are not as smart as we often think (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by chemoelectric on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 04:38:31 PM EST
    It's fascinating to see all these people unable to notice that their popularity rises and falls with how combative or conciliatory they are towards Bush. But even the better individuals among these people, even 'geniuses', are just dummies like the rest of us, and we should at least remember that when they seem so dumb, not to forgive them, but to understand how much pressure and un-Bush-like patience will be needed.

    (PhDs make the same stupid mistakes as the rest of us, the same mistakes we made on our school math tests, for instance. They do so even in their own fields of study, as I've discovered by observing scientists of a particular 'hard science' sub-specialty. And they get the mistakes published despite peer review. Democratic politicians probably are less brainy on average than these scientists.)

    asdf (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by conchita on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 06:42:43 PM EST
    the dems are about to prove my late bf right again.  the evening we met, while talking with a group of friends of friends at an outdoor cafe, he hollered across the crowd "vote independent!"  a new zealander, he abhored our "two-party" system.  as he said, the dems will let you down over and over again because they aren't different enough from the republicans.

    Leadership Defenders are now reduced (none / 0) (#4)
    by andgarden on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:35:14 PM EST
    to saying that not enough  people are against the war.
    the crucial thing to remember though from the raw political aspect of it, that these sorts of polls are generic "national" ones, and don't give an accurate reflection of the mood on a district by district, or state by state level.

    Utterly false (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:54:07 PM EST
    I think there are very few Dem districts that do not favor withdrawal.

    This is simply a false claim.


    I think you're right (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 04:02:41 PM EST
    but we were unable to pressure the Blue Dogs, and so this is probably what they believe.

    Oh the blue dogs (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 04:07:21 PM EST
    What is a blue dog really?  Is it a dog that can't get laid even when the whole neighborhood is in heat?