Fifty-seven percent of Americans say that Congress should not compromise with President Bush in the Iraq War funding fight. That’s the number that, according to a new CNN poll, wants Congress to give Bush another bill with a withdrawal timetable.

Unfortunately, not all the Democrats on the Hill want to push back quite that hard. There is serious talk of giving Bush a substantial portion of the money with no strings attached and then returning to the issue later this year.

Such a move would highlight the failure of all the major players to step up to the challenge the Iraq imbroglio poses.

For far too long, neither the Bush White House nor the Congress has seemed to be fully prepared to take responsibility for the war in Iraq. Bush won’t admit his misdeeds and change course. But Congress, which gave Bush the power to launch the attack, has been far too slow in acknowledging its error in trusting the president’s claims about weapons of mass destruction and other threats — and even slower in taking responsibility for that error by using the power of the purse to constrain Bush’s continued war making.

But U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, is doing his best to get Congress to take the bold step that is necessary.

“With brave Americans fighting and dying for a failed policy in Iraq, members of Congress shouldn’t delay action to end this misguided war for weeks or even months just for the sake of political comfort,” says Feingold, who more than a year ago started talking about the need for a well-defined exit strategy.

The senator has been turning up the heat by pressing for consideration of his Feingold-Reid plan to bring the troops home. Feingold’s proposal, which is cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is written with the specific intent of forcing the president to safely redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq by March 31, 2008. Further funding of the war would be cut off on that date.

It takes courage to set deadlines and to try and impose them.

Feingold has shown this sort of courage since before the war began, as a constant critic of Bush’s misguided strategies. Perhaps best known for his solo vote against the Patriot Act, Feingold also voted against authorizing Bush to take the country to war and was the first senator to propose a date for ending U.S. involvement in Iraq.

He’s got more company now that the war has so clearly degenerated into the disaster he predicted almost five years ago.

But Feingold isn’t resting on his laurels and “I-told-you-sos.” His work to attach the Feingold-Reid measure to the Iraq supplemental spending bill represents the most direct and potentially meaningful challenge to a Republican president and a Democratic Congress that have yet to take responsibility for a war that kills an Iraqi every ten minutes, kills an American every ten hours and empties another two billion dollars from the U.S. Treasury every ten days.

———————————————————————

John Nichols’ new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders’ Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson hails it as a “nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'”