Allow me, for a moment, to ask one question: what in the world are Congressional Democrats doing?
The decision by the Democratic majority to strip the measure of a timetable for troop withdrawal has raised the prospect that it could be approved mainly by Republicans with scattered Democrat support. The idea that many Democrats would be left on the losing side in a consequential vote has exposed a sharp divide within the party, drawn scorn from antiwar groups, confused the public and frustrated the party rank and file.
But in recounting the leadershipâ€™s thinking, senior Democrats and other officials said that by early this week they had concluded there was no alternative but to give ground to President Bush despite their view that he had mishandled the war and needed to be put under tighter Congressional rein.
This was the time to stick to your guns! It’s not the time to abandon the principles for which you fought so hard just two months ago â€” especially not when the country is behind you:
- 76% believe the war is going badly.
- 63% support a timetable for withdrawal in 2008.
- 76% think the surge is either making things worse or having no impact.
- Only 15% support open-ended funding. The rest either want to cut off funds completely or make them conditional on benchmarks.
- Large pluralities trust Dems more on foreign policy (51%-31%) and on making decisions about the war (51%-33%).
Americans’ latest views, according to Kevin Drum.
You know whatâ€™s going to happen in September? Theyâ€™ll bring General Petraeus back and heâ€™ll say, Just give me until the end of year. I think things are turning around. And then weâ€™ll be out of session, come back in late January, February, and the fact is a thousand more troops will lose their lives in a situation that doesnâ€™t make any sense and it is hurting our military, hurting our country. This should not wait till September.
Recall that last spring many Dems were terrified of taking on the GOP and the White House over Iraq because they worried that the Republicans would tell the electorate an irresistable story: Dems are weak, and Republicans are strong. When Dems finally realized that Republicans would tell this story no matter what they did, they started telling the story their way: The war in Iraq is a disaster; it has made us weaker; Dems want to end it, and Republicans don’t. The rest is history. Dems won the argument.
Now Dems appear to have let their own worries about the potential story that Republicans will tell — Dems are on vacation while the troops are wanting! — largely shape their course of action here. Sure, you want to game out what the opposition will do. But Dems, Republicans are going to keep telling the story this way no matter what you do. Indeed, the President just reminded everyone at today’s presser that some Dems didn’t want to support the troops — even though the Dem leadership has already agreed to give him his no-timelines funding. Why not start by deciding what the right policy is, and then tell your story as forcefully as you can? Dems can win arguments, as 2006 showed.