Thursday, May 24, 2007

Democrats surrender, Iraq war marches on

"Surrender" is the correct term for it. These damn Democrats. They won in '06 for a reason, the voters (I can't include myself in this, as I didn't bother to last year) wanted them to fight Bush on Iraq, and they have just gotten their noses bloodied, big-time. In a big victory, Bush won't concede any of his authority on Iraq. Even in a state of despair and lowering popularity and support, the Republicans can still close ranks and be united. This is a skill that the Democrats have yet to master. The Republicans group together, waiting for the Democrats to blink and give in, and it works every single time. Nancy Pelosi said that September will be the "moment of truth". I think now was the moment of truth, and the Democrats showed what they were made of. There always seems to be a "moment of truth" or to put it in more holy terms, a judgment day for the Democrats. They're always telling us, at this time, that's when we'll finally stand up and refuse to compromise. Unless the Democrats are ruthless, how can they ever hope to succeed?

This is a good blog post from a journalist at CBC News.

Democrats surrender, Iraq war marches on

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By Henry Champ

Washington newspaper headlines pretty much tell it all.

In the more liberal Washington Post, the story is headed: "Democrats Relent On Pullout Timetable."

In the conservative Washington Times: "Democrats Surrender."

Most would say the Times has this one nailed. It certainly smells more like a surrender, not a relenting, and has to be seen as a big political win for President George W. Bush.

In his months-long fight with Congress, the president does not lose a single shred of his authority over the war in Iraq.

The Democrats wanted to establish timelines for U.S. troop withdrawal that would have seen the first American soldiers leaving this fall. Bush vetoed that bill on May 1.

The Democrats then attempted to frame legislation that would set up benchmarks, which, if not met, would start the troops coming home.

Those benchmarks included evidence that Iraqis were taking on more of the fighting, that security was improving in Baghdad and the troubled provinces, and that the president's troop escalation in Iraq was working. The Democrats never found a formula they could agree on.

Surrender dates

For the Republicans, the crowing started immediately.

House Minority Leader John Boehner: "Democrats have finally conceded defeat in their effort to include mandatory surrender dates in a funding bill for the troops." Note the phrasing: Surrender dates.

This debate started with the capture of Congress by the Democrats back in November. They saw their victory as a mandate to end the conflict in Iraq.

There is no question the polls have indicated the president's handling of the war is unpopular, and that public opposition to it is growing. In fact, fewer Americans than ever before believe that victory is possible in Iraq.

As a result, the Democrats initial efforts to bring troops home had considerable public support. But the presidential veto changed everything.

And the ultimate victory had much to do with party unity.

Some Democratic lawmakers wanted to stay the course, send back the bill and force the president to veto again. Others worried that voters wanted their troops supported and so desired a compromise with the White House. Another group wanted a schedule of benchmarks and argued among themselves over what kind of package they could assemble.

Closed ranks

On their side, meanwhile, the Republicans closed ranks, withstood Democratic attacks, public opposition to the war and doubts within their own party that Iraq was going badly.

They also continued to fire away on the one theme that was working for them, that the Democrats were in effect surrendering on the battlefield. It worked. The Democrats blinked.

Talking as much about his own party as Congress at large, anti-war Senator Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said after the retreat, "There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action."

Democrats promise that they will be back in the fall. More funding will be needed by then, and the success or failure of the president's troop escalation will be easier to judge as will the abilities of the Iraqi military and police.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats main spokesperson, says September will be "the moment of truth."

So, some might say, was the month of May.

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