Friday, May 25, 2007


On the run today, but here's a take on the Iraq war vote from my "Capital Games column" at And see the new item below from our See You in September file....

The congressional Democratic leaders' big problem: they can't count.

Given the choice of funding the unpopular Iraq war or being accused by George W. Bush of succumbing to a defeatism that endangers America's security, a majority of senators and representatives clearly prefers Option One. This group is composed mostly of Republicans. But a slice of Democrats are within its ranks. Such a reality couldn't be hurdled by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate during the just-ended face-off over an Iraq war funding bill. The Democrats tried at first to have it both ways and ended up with nothing--except a flood of resentment from their core supporters. Amid the debris, there's a lesson for them.

Led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrats thought they could cleverly force Bush to end (or, at least, begin ending) the war. They oppose the war, but their plan was to vote for Iraq war funds and attach a variety of conditions, including benchmarks and a withdrawal schedule, to the funding measure. Such a move would have both continued the war and established a glide path for its end (that is, the end of active US combat participation in the conflict). A few Democrats who wanted to just say no to the war bolted, but Pelosi managed to craft a Rube Goldberg measure that won the barest party-line majority possible. (There was doubt whether the legislation would do much in concrete terms, for it contained escape clauses Bush could exploit.) In the Senate, Reid, with his fellow Democrats aboard, passed a less complicated bill that called for beginning a withdrawal in several months. Next, the president vetoed the blended bill that subsequently emerged.

That was no surprise. For the Democrats, the question was, what to do next? Antiwar advocates, such as the members of MoveOn, demanded the Dems hang tough. Former Senator John Edwards, a presidential candidate, called for Pelosi and Reid to keep passing the same bill in defiance of Bush's veto, as Edwards sought to pressure two rivals, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The media portrayed the episode as a showdown between congressional Democrats and Bush. The key issue: who would blink first?

The answer came on Thursday night when the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate essentially turned tail and allowed votes on a $120 billion war funding measure containing weak benchmarks and little in the way of consequences should the Iraqi government fall short. GOPers provided most of the support for the legislation, but in the House 86 Democrats voted for it (including such leaders as Representatives Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel, James Clyburn and John Murtha). In the Senate, 37 of 50 Democrats went along. Toward the end of the vote in the Senate, Obama voted nay; then Hillary Clinton followed suit.

The war continues. No checks, no balances.

Grassroots and antiwar Democrats who expected their party's win last November to lead to the war's end are enraged. As they see it--and accurately so--a Democratic-controlled Congress has failed to halt or slow Bush's war in Iraq, even though public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans favor establishing a withdrawal timetable. And, worse, many Democrats have now voted to give the war, with the ongoing escalation, another chance. The Democratic Party leaders stand alienated from their base--while congressional Republicans, though out of step with popular sentiment, are in sync with their core supporters.

Was such an unhappy (for the Democrats) outcome inevitable? Probably. The Democrats do not have the votes to stop the war, even in their own caucus--unless they are audaciously willing to defy majority rule (say, by preventing war funding legislation from reaching the floor). Most House Democrats do favor withdrawing from Iraq. Days ago, 169 House Democrats (and two Republicans) voted for such a measure. And 28 Democratic senators voted for a similar bill. Yet a significant minority of Democrats are aligned with almost all the Republicans in opposition to a legislatively-mandated pullback. Some of these Democrats may believe in the war; many probably fear being blamed for the ugly consequences that could ensue in Iraq following a removal of US troops. In any event, the Democrats were mathematically destined to disappoint those hoping they would suffocate Bush's war in Iraq.

The denouement, though, did not have to be so dismal for the Democrats. If the Democrats had at the start not attempted to outfox an uncompromising commander in chief, they could have reaped the rewards of moral (or political) clarity. Had Pelosi offered a bill forcing a withdrawal of US forces within a year, she would have lost the vote on that measure. But she would have been in a position to declare, "Most of the Democratic Party want to end this war, but because some of our members (and practically all of the Republicans) disagree, we cannot pass legislation to achieve this...yet." A clear picture would have been painted: the war belongs to Bush and the Republicans.

After that, Pelosi could have permitted the Republicans to bring forward an appropriations bill for the war. The Democrats could have offered various benchmarks, conditions, timetables, and deadlines via amendments. Most would have failed, a few (but no withdrawal deadlines) might have passed. Again, there would be clarity. The narrative would have been that the Democrats first tried to stop the war and then attempted

to place limits on the war. If they failed, they failed. Sure, there still would have been anger from the base at those Democrats who bucked the Democratic gameplan. But the party's grassroots and netroots--and the rest of the public--would have seen that the Democratic leadership had endeavored to change course in Iraq.

The House Democratic leaders can now contend that they did try to force a change on Bush and point to the 140 Dems who voted against the war funding bill. But this claim cannot overcome the appearance of Democratic strategizing gone awry. The Democrats created too much confusing context for their failure. Bush had a simple position: I want my war the way I want it, and if the Democrats don't give it to me, they'll be harming the troops and bear responsibility for whatever ill befalls America from the evildoers. The Democrats presented a series of hard-to-follow and hard-to-explain gyrations. They were rolled.

At the end of the day, Bush and the GOP--who are on the wrong side of public opinion on the war--came out political winners. And the Democrats looked divided, confused, and weak. Which brings me back to the first point. In politics, you can sometimes turn a liability (not enough votes) into an asset, if you play for a clean loss that sends the right message. That's not what happened on this round.

The match is not over. The war slogs on, and Congress will face another vote on war funds in the fall. Lawmakers of both parties are already saying that September will be the make-or-break month, meaning that if there are no obvious signs of progress by summer's end, even Republicans may start to proclaim enough's enough. "This is not the end of the debate," Pelosi asserted before voting against the war funding measure. She's right about that.

Pelosi and Reid will get another shot at Bush's war soon. Democrats should wonder what their leaders learned from this defeat.

See You in September: The Series. It's not just Republicans singing this song. Now that the Democrats have been rolled by the White House on the Iraq war funding vote, they're joining in. Here's Democratic Representative Jack Murtha explaining his reluctant vote for the war funding bill:

Today, I voted for both the $22 billion supplemental funding for domestic programs and the $98 billion supplemental funding for our troops in Iraq....

Some have suggested that since the president refuses to compromise, Democrats should refuse to send him anything. I disagree. There is a point when the money for our troops in Iraq will run out, and when it does, our men and women serving courageously in Iraq will be the ones who will suffer, not this president.

Patience has run out and I feel a change in direction happening within the chambers of Congress. While we don't have the votes right now to change the president's policy, I believe that come September we will have the votes from both Democrats and Republicans to change policy and direction. In September, General Petraeus will report back on the progress of the surge, and Congress will take up both the $460 billion base defense appropriations bill and the $141 billion Iraq supplemental. The surge is not producing the results that were promised. And, based on my discussions with Iraqi Government officials, I don't believe they have the motivation to bring about the political and economic benchmarks agreed to. This is why September will be key.

And Bush is on the same page in the songbook--at least for now. Earlier this week, The Chicago Tribune reported:

In reported remarks Monday, Bush said "an important moment" in the Iraq war would come in September, when Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander, plans to deliver an assessment on the progress. The president's comments, in an interview with the Reuters news agency, came as members of both parties in Congress and many in the administration increasingly view the September assessment as a deadline for improvements.

Remember, summers always go by much faster than you think.

Send other See You in September warnings--and tips, leads, complaints and comments--to

Posted by David Corn at May 25, 2007 11:56 AM


capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

The D's might not be able to count but you can rest assured - their corporate sponsors can and the military industrial complex is getting richer by the day.

Thanks for all of your work.


David B. Benson said...


Oh, I just read capt's comment.

Maybe not so dumb...

capt said...

We Gave Them Our Hearts, They Gave Him A Blank Check


Democratic politicians, Capitol Hill staff, political consultants and all their lobbyist friends sitting comfortably tonight in their Northwest Washington homes believe the public thinks Democrats are "weak" because they don't more strongly support leaving American troops to be killed or maimed in the middle of a bloody civil war in a country half way around the globe that had no WMD and had nothing to do with 9/11. What they seem unable - or unwilling - to realize is that the public has believed Democrats are weak not because some in the party have opposed the war, but because many in the party refuse to wield the power the public entrusts them with on all sorts of issues. At least on Iraq - the biggest issue of the day - the public's perception has proven right. As I wrote to one congressional lawmaker in an e-mail correspondence we had today: "The spoils go to those who use the power they are entrusted with, while infamy goes to those who squander it."

In the movie "Say Anything," John Cusack famously laments after being dumped that "I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen." The American people gave Democrats their heart in November 2006. In return, Democrats gave George Bush a blank check in May 2007. We gave them our heart, they gave him a blank check. That will make May 24, 2007 a dark day generations to come will look back on - a day when Democrats in Washington not only continued a war they promised to end, but happily went on record declaring that they believe in their hearts that government's role is to ignore the will of the American people.


*****end of clip*****

Washington DC has one snake with two heads. Nothing will change without a revolution.


capt said...

CBS Poll: 76% Say War's Going Badly

(CBS) As President Bush and Congress hammer out an Iraq war funding bill, a CBS News/New York Times poll shows the number of Americans who say the war is going badly has reached a new high, rising 10 percent this month to 76 percent.

Nearly half of all Americans (47 percent) say the war is going very badly, while just 20 percent say the recent U.S. troop increase is making a positive difference.

Even a majority of Republicans, 52 percent, now say the war is going at least somewhat badly – a 16-point increase from the middle of April. Nine in 10 Democrats and eight in 10 Independents agree.


*****end of clip*****

The most unpopular war and the most unpopular president in the history of America and the leadership[sic] of BOTH parties feign a tin ear?

Pitchforks - CHECK
Torches - CHECK


David B. Benson said...

I'll bring a bucket of tar if you'll fetch the rail.

Don't need the feathers. They're already chickens...

capt said...

Marines Fail to Get Gear to Troops

The system for delivering badly needed gear to Marines in Iraq has failed to meet many urgent requests for equipment from troops in the field, according to an internal document obtained by The Associated Press.

Of more than 100 requests from deployed Marine units between February 2006 and February 2007, less than 10 percent have been fulfilled, the document says. It blamed the bureaucracy and a "risk-averse" approach by acquisition officials.

Among the items held up were a mine resistant vehicle and a hand-held laser system.

"Process worship cripples operating forces," according to the document. "Civilian middle management lacks technical and operational currency."

The 32-page document - labeled "For Official Use Only" - was prepared by the staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force after they returned from Iraq in February.

The document was to be presented in March to senior officials in the Pentagon's defense research and engineering office. The presentation was canceled by Marine Corps leaders because its contents were deemed too contentious, according to a defense official familiar with the document. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly.


*****end of clip*****

The problems and issues are systemic. This is not due to a lack of funding it is a lack of leadership.


capt said...

"Most Americans aren't the sort of citizens the Founding Fathers expected; they are contented serfs. Far from being active critics of government, they assume that its might makes it right." : Joseph Sobran (1946- ) Columnist

"A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands -- even for beneficial purposes -- will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.": John Stuart Mill - (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist

"I never could believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world, ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden.": Richard Rumbold - (?-1626) British Colonel - Source: His final words on the scaffold before he was hanged in 1685.


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

capt said...

Existing home sales fall in April

"It is only a matter of time before homeowners realize that the dream is over and that price cuts are now necessary to sell their homes," said Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital, a Darien, Conn., investment firm.

The supply of existing homes for sale shot up to a record total of 4.2 million in April, an increase of 394,000 from the March supply. Analysts predicted that this big inventory surge would act to further depress prices.

"We're swimming in supply," said Mike Larson, a real estate analyst with Weiss Research, who cited a number of factors for the unsold homes.

"Unrealistic sellers, stuck flippers, stretched borrowers, foreclosures. They're all contributing to a surge in homes on the market," he said. Flippers are investors who bought homes during the boom hoping to resell them for a quick profit only to be caught as the market softened.


capt said...

'Stop Dimona' says Blix

WMD Commission head says Israel and Iran 'should both end fuel-cycles'

LUXEMBOURG - Israel should comply with the same demand being made of Iran, to cease its nuclear fuel-cycle and stop enriching uranium, Hans Blix, Chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC), told Ynetnews Thursday.

Blix had earlier delivered a speech at the International Conference on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe being held in Luxembourg, where he warned that the "world is sleep-walking into nuclear rearmament."

Formally a top UN weapons inspector, Blix now heads the Sweden-based WMDC, which says it aims to "forge realistic and constructive ideas and proposals aimed at the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction."


*****end of clip*****

I expect some blowback from the Israel firsters but the idea makes sense.


capt said...

New Thread!

Mookie said...

I knew the dems would fail. Their whole approach has been weak and ineffectual, probably on purpose. The only way to stop this war is to launch an investigation (impeach Cheney!) into the conduct of key administration officials in the conduct of this war, and possibly get a few of them in big trouble. And don't pretend like there's nothing to use against them - no-bid contracts, NSA wiretapping, etc.