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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Can Dems Unify Party on Iraq in ’07?

It’s all about the Clinton-Obama-Geffen dust-up in the blogs today. But over at TomPaine.com, David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, draws a bead on the more problematic conflict within the Democratic Party in his post “The Democrats’ Iraq Civil War”:

A civil war may be brewing in the Democratic Party over Iraq. There are Democrats who want to take immediate and concrete steps to end the war. They want to force withdrawal through legislation. And there are Democrats who essentially do not want to go first. They want to push President George W. Bush to clean up the mess he made so that he, not the Democrats, will bear responsibility for how the war ends (which could be nastily). Both sides were able to agree on a nonbinding resolution decrying Bush’s surge and declaring support for the troops. But now that such a resolution has passed in the House and died in the Senate, the issue is, what’s next?

Corn reviews the various intitiatives being proposed in the House and Senate and the positions of the Presidential candidates. It’s a dicey, high stakes game, with all parties fearful of being depicted as somehow less supportive of the troops. The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll, for example, indicates that 63 percent of respondents oppose sending more troops to Iraq, but 60 percent oppose cutting off funds for the additional troops President Bush wants to send to Iraq. In between these two simplistically-stated options, there are a wide range of alternatives that respondents haven’t yet been asked.
It may be too much to hope that Democrats will unite behind an Iraq withdrawall/redeployment strategy after the primaries designate the presidential nominee, as early as next February. But even if they do, it could be too late to do much good. If the “surge” fails to produce positive results by the end of summer this year — and there is no reason to think it will succeed, given Bush’s track record so far and the deteriorating situation on the ground in Iraq — more voters will want to see funds cut off and troops coming home before the first primaries. How well the Dems respond in the Fall months of ’07 may well decide who wins the white house.

One comment on “Can Dems Unify Party on Iraq in ’07?

  1. JRBehrman on

    The key thing here is unity, and I think that only the second, indirect, approach can achieve that.
    The direct approach is just idle posturing by safe-seat or retiring Democrats with nothing to lose if (a) their measures pass but (b) prove to be ineffectual. Remember, this President can take the “unitary executive” notion to the Supreme Court and win. The Supreme Court is radical, instransigent, and unaccountable. Give them a “War Powers” question, and they will give you the worst conceivable answer.
    The problem is that the “force the President to take responsibility for how the war ends (badly)” crowd need more, not less, courage than the pointless gesture faction.
    They should give the President his requests “for the troops” and start taking away the rest of whole rotten agro-military complex. Let’s see, we do not need a DDX or an F-22 or, evidently, a V-22, or Star Wars or LRL and so much more. We are short on Army Captains and Sergeants, but we have more Air Force and Navy Flag Officers than there is any justification for.
    If the Democratic Congressional rabble do not want to absorb liability for what is clearly the President’s responsibility, they need to discharge what are their own, unique responsibilities: That would be “providing for the common defense” by originating bills in the House uniquely that simply do not include the usual military pork, that being about half the white + black “defense budget”.
    That is not a matter of shaving the President’s defense budget a little here and there. That means writing authorization and appropriation bills that leave out things the Senate cannot conference back in and the President cannot veto … lots of things.
    The Democratic Congress cannot and should not micro-manage a war. They can and should macro-manage what they are responsible for — the Pentagon System of obsolete armed forces and red-state welfare.
    I see no sign of that from the cringing liberal Democrats, continuously running for office and away from their actual duties.


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