Forgive the tabloid headline--I couldn't resist. There are only early reports, to be sure, but it seems that the Democratic leadership has decided that firm deadlines and benchmarks for the bill to fund more of the Iraq war will not be in the next bill. I'm probably more sensitive than many lefties to the political realities Harry Reid et al are dealing with here: they don't have enough votes to override a veto; they don't have much consensus among their own ranks as to what to do next; they are scared of enabling a Republican 'stab in the back' attack. So, the thinking goes, why not use this bill as leverage for whatever non-Iraq measure we can get, and then start planning for September, when we will probably be able to count on support from a few Republicans, and the public will be even more sick of this damn war than they are now. Okay--fine. So you trade a vote for a months-long funding bill for Republican support of some other legislation, like raising the minimum wage. What you're doing is swallowing support of an incredibly unpopular war (and an incredibly unpopular president) in order to force the Republicans to vote for something that's very popular. Does that make any sense?
I don't understand why the Dems think it's their duty to pass some sort of bill that the president will sign, and to do so sooner rather than later. Funding for the war will run out unless more legislation is approved. By remaining steadfast on the inclusion of deadlines in any further funding, the Dems can either force the Bushies to come up with a bill that's acceptable to *the Democrats*, or end the war by running out the clock on current funding. The end-game for the second option is messy, indeed--probably some sort of Constitutional crisis as King Bush tries to keep the war going without any legislation from Congress, and the dead-ender Republicans screaming bloody murder about how the Dems have abandoned our troops in the field.
But please--the Republicans will be screaming bloody murder anyhow, because it's all they've got left. And the vast majority of Americans want this war to end, and end quickly. If it takes a Constitutional crisis, fine--better to force Bush to practice his Constitution-wrecking in public. He's like an alcoholic in his thirst for power. Quietly trying to wait it out, hoping that the problem will go away, is just enabling further abuse. We need an intervention, and the sooner the better.
Dems should stick to their guns on including deadlines in any further funding bills. If Bush says he will veto any bill with deadlines, fine--make him veto them again and again. Hell, if you want to make a game of it, see how lengthy the deadlines can get before Bush says he'll sign the bill. Five years? Twenty? At the very least the Dems ought to be able to use the funding bill to find the limits of Republican support for Bush's war. If no deadline, however lengthy, is acceptable, then how about some benchmarks? Force Bush to certify at regular intervals that the Iraqi government is making progress towards stability and self-security. Certainly there ought to be some metrics enough Republicans would agree on to enable passage with a veto-proof majority. And if there isn't, no bill will pass, and war funding runs out anyway.
Come on, Dems--this is a big opportunity. Your professed principles and political utility coincide on this. Don't cave in to Republican bluster, and your own learned cowardice now.