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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The House’s Phony Debate On Iraq

By the time most of you read this, the papers will be full of accounts of the weird vote House Republicans forced tonight on a truncuated version of Rep. John Murtha’s call yesterday for a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.The snap-vote decision, reportedly suggested to the House GOP Caucus this morning by conservative attack-dog Hunter Duncan, is one of those too-clever-by-half things that sound good at first suggestion, but which grownups usually eschew in the end.Guess there aren’t that many grownups in the House Republican Caucus.The debate on Hunter’s version of Murtha’s resolution was one of the more dreadful displays I’ve seen in many years of House-watching. Everybody knew that House Democrats had decided to urge its members to vote against the resolution, making the whole exercise a waste of time (the final vote was 3-402). Listening to House Republicans scream about staying the course, fighting the terrorists on their turf, bringing democracy to the Middle East, etc., etc., you’d never know their Senate counterparts had voted overwhelmingly to repudiate the administration’s strategy in Iraq earlier this week. For his part, Murtha (appropriately, the only speaker on the Democratic side), put in the impossible position of leading the opposition to what Republicans were describing as his resolution, pretty much limited himself to reading letters from troops and their families supporting his earlier statement. There was no real debate.It’s not surprising, given Murtha’s credentials, that Republicans gave most of their time to Vietnam vets, but what was surprising was how often they expressed the opinion that America “cut and run” in Vietnam, and how angry they still seem to be that we didn’t stay there until, well, eternity.If I were a Republican, I wouldn’t be encouraging Vietnam analogies, but what the hell, the whole scene was so surreal that you half expected the ghost of Richard Nixon to arise from the House well and demand vindication.We’ll see how the whole ploy spins out over the weekend, but here’s a quick reaction from one conservative, National Review’s K-Lo over at The Corner:

I have a very bad feeling about this GOP vote-force tonight. Listening to the emotional debate on the floor now…well, there was just some screaming, to give you an idea. Prediction: Dems vote no on a Republican resolution for immediate withdrawal. Dems easily frame the whole exercise as Republicans caricaturing sensible concerns about Iraq–and more specifically a mocking of Vietnam vet Marine Jack Murtha.

Ms. Lopez was right about the vote. And I think she’s right about how the whole thing goes down. It was a bad idea that House Republicans, typically, could not resist.

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