As the U.S. House moves inexorably towards a non-binding resolution rejecting the Bush escalation plan for Iraq, I hope the widespread progressive mockery of this step will subside. It’s the first step towards a strategic withdrawal from combat operations in Iraq, not the last.And speaking of next steps, some bloggers who are citing the latest Gallup numbers showing tepid 51% support for a non-binding resolution against the Bush “surge”‘ aren’t exactly playing up the same poll’s 58% opposition to cutting off funds for the escalation. The big anti-Bush majority (63%) is for setting a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2008, which, given the poll’s options, probably means “as soon as possible without disaster.”The simplest way to interpret this and other recent polls is to say that serious majorities of Americans want Congress rather than the Bush administration to take control of Iraq policy, but not, if possible, by cutting off funds. And that probably means that the Democratic Congressional leadership’s strategy of gradually marginalizing Bush on Iraq makes sense.On another but related front, Democrats are beginning to make serious noises about the administration’s saber-rattling towards Iran. Over at TPMCafe, I’ve responded and dissented from my good friend and fellow Clintonian Kenny Baer’s post suggesting that the netroots are putting too much pressure on Dems to go pacifist with respect to Iran. For those of you who think such issues are cut and dried and follow the predictable patterns of the usual intra-Democratic debate on Iraq: give it all a look.
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.