I wonder how Barbra Streisand feels.
On September 29, at the fancy Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, she headlined a $6 million fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. With her on the stage was House minority leader Richard Gephardt. As she sang a politics-drenched rewrite of “The Way We Were” (“Mis’ries/seems that’s all that fills the news/blame the fellas in the White House/for the way we are”), she interjected comments bashing George W. Bush and the Republicans. At one point she commented, “I find bringing the country to the brink of war unilaterally five weeks before an election questionable–and very, very frightening.” This remark echoed a confidential memo a Streisand aide sent Gephardt a few days earlier. In that note, Streisand pressed “Democrats to get off the defensive and go on the offensive.” The memo also said, “Many of the industries run by big Republican donors and insiders clearly have much to gain if we go to war against Iraq. Barbra urges the Democrats to publicly convey this message to the American people.”
That’s hardly the message Gephardt pushed once he left Babs-land and returned to Washington. Three days after the concert, he brokered a deal with the White House that guaranteed passage of a resolution authorizing Bush to launch war on Iraq as “he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” and to enforce United Nations resolutions. The Gephardt-backed measure was less of a blank check than the one Bush had sent to Congress. The differences, though, meant little. Under the negotiated resolution, Bush will have to report to Congress that “diplomatic and other peaceful means alone” were not sufficient to thwart Saddam Hussein and enforce UN resolutions. But Bush does not have to issue such a report until two days after he initiates an attack. Gephardt (and the GOP House leaders) are telling Bush, shoot whenever you like, explain later. And once bombs are falling and US troops are in harm’s way, how many members of Congress are going to challenge Bush’s finding, if they consider it unpersuasive, and then attempt to de-authorize a wartime president? (“I demand you withdraw 100,000 troops and recall the bombers because you misread the last Iraqi communique on the inspections process!”)
If war comes, it will not only be Bush’s war. It will be Gephardt’s war. Other key shareholders will be Democratic Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Edwards, two presidential wannabes who have been pre-running as get-Saddam hawks. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s stake in the enterprise is uncertain as of this writing. He has griped about Bush’s politicized rhetoric and raised questions about Bush’s dash toward war, but has not opposed the underlying policy. (And Daschle can thank Gephardt, who held his own unilateral negotiations with the White House, for cutting a deal that undermined any move Daschle might have contemplated to limit the use-of-force resolution.) Most Democrats in both the House and the Senate are expected to vote in favor of authorizing Bush to mount a war–even a unilateral one–against Saddam Hussein.