Democrats in Congress have finally settled on a binding timeline to withdraw troops from Iraq by late 2008, which President Bush threatened to veto. This weekend Speaker Pelosi responded by blasting the threat as proof that Bush is only interested in “an open-ended commitment to a war without end.” She also took the opportunity to review the costs of the Iraq war: “President Bush’s Iraq policies weaken our military’s readiness, dishonor our nation’s promises to our veterans, and fail to hold the Iraqi government accountable for overdue reforms.”
Progressive members of the Out of Iraq Caucus have been urging Pelosi to make the deadline binding and add a provision banning any attack on Iran without congressional approval. Blogger Chris Bowers, who volunteered for the progressive caucus for two weeks of the Iraq debate, writes that while the funding bill does not have everything he wanted, it “does contain enough provisions that will force Bush into operating the war illegally if he refuses to begin drawing it down over the next year or so.”
Front page bloggers at Daily Kos are less satisfied. BarbinMD argues that the bill is “toothless” because enforcement of the benchmarks that would bring troops home is actually “left in the hands of George Bush.” Mcjoan, a former aide to Sen. Ron Wyden, concludes that Democrats are missing the whole point. “McConnell has vowed to filibuster anything that has restrictions, and Bush has vowed to veto it should it somehow emerge from a filibuster,” she emphasizes, so Democrats should focus on simply trying to “win this round” on political terms.
A similar strategy is favored by the OurKarlRove blog, which offers Rovian spin for Democratic ends, courtesy of a 38-year-old independent in Philadelphia. The imaginary Rove advises Democrats to avoid micro-managing war funding, which only risks entangling the party in “Bush’s disastrous strategy.” Instead, Democrats should strive to be the country’s “Chief Financial Officer,” providing broad strategic direction and reminding the public that since Bush “is still solely responsible for the war effort, every loss America takes is a result of a failed Republican foreign policy strategy.” OurKarlRove also chides some Democrats’ framing of withdrawal: “Stop talking about getting our troops ‘out of harm’s way.’ Our armed forces volunteered to be trained to be in harm’s way. That’s their job. It’s the Generals’ job to ensure their troops are safe, not the Congress.”
Even if the Democrats don’t listen to the bloggers’ advice, it looks like the public already supports the plan. A new poll of “conservative-leaning House districts” found a whopping 67 percent of respondents favored legislation to get U.S. troops “out of Iraq by early 2008.” The Politico summed up the news last week under the headline, “Democrats’ Iraq Plan Draws Broad Support, Poll Shows.”
Now Democrats must force Bush to make good on his brash threat.
Does he really want to reject funding for the troops, against the will of the American public and a Congress elected on a huge mandate to end the war?
A veto would be the the kind of brazen move that could even put Republicans over the edge. As Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says in the forthcoming issue of Esquire, Bush may think “[h]e’s not accountable anymore, which isn’t totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don’t know. It depends how this goes.”