Saturday, March 10, 2007

It was nice while it lasted

Okay, the hope level has dropped several notches.

The Christian Science Monitor for Friday published an article discussing House Democrats' attempts to "outline an endgame" for the Iraq war. While most of it was just a routine overview, it contained two very serious clangers.

The first was the note that
[t]he 44-member Blue Dog Coalition, which opposes any move that threatens to deprive US troops of funding, and other center-right Democrats have been urging leaders to give the president a waiver in any plan that tried to impose conditions on the spending of war funds. Pelosi confirmed that such waivers would be part of the plan but did not specify how they would affect the timetable for withdrawal. [emphasis of course added]
What the hell? I guess I should have - no, forget "guess," I should have - expected this but dammit, I got snookered again, again let myself get sucked in by the absurd hope, and yes it is absurd, that Pelosi and company were actually out to challenge Shrub. But instead it seems we're going to get a plan that will say to Bush "You must do this - unless, that is, you don't want to."

Such waivers, more properly called "Get Out of Jail Free" cards and which work if and only if the one handed them can be trusted to use them honestly, serve here the single, sole purpose of giving the White House a way to avoid any impact from the bill - that is, the Democratic leadership has agreed to eviscerate its own bill even before it is introduced.

Let's be real here. This plan isn't about opposing Bush. It's not about stopping the war. It's about saying you oppose the war while at the same time running away from any actual responsibility for doing anything about it. It's about, bottom line, positioning for the 2008 campaign and who gives a damn about the lives, American (and allied) and even more Iraqi, ruined in the meantime.

Which provides the logic behind the second clanger: Pelosi
said that she didn't know what purpose it would serve to allow a vote on the Lee amendment,
that being the one the Progressive Caucus wants to introduce which would require a withdrawal of all US troops by December 31. (The text of the amendment can be found at this link.)

Well, of course there isn't a purpose, not if your goal is to avoid making any actually enforceable move to ending the war. If you wanted to take a stand, a clear stand, you would at least embrace voting on the amendment, even if you thought it was impractical, even if you thought it was too fast, even if for what you honestly deemed good and proper reasons you were going to vote against it, you could have the debate and the vote as a measure of how strong current sentiment in the House is for such a move. You could recognize it as the course desired by a significant portion* of the American public and say it deserves expression.

But no, it's quite possible none of that will happen. Not because there's "no purpose" to it, but because some people are afraid of it. Not the GOPpers, they would vote against it, possibly unanimously. Not the Democrats of the Blue Dog Coalition, who also would vote against it. And obviously not the members of the Progressive Caucus, who would vote for it. So who?

Go for the obvious: the Pelosi gang, who are terrified of the amendment because they figure they can't vote for it (thus appearing to oppose their own plan as inadequate) but also figure they can't vote against it (thus appearing to needlessly extend the war). Better, then, to try to keep the amendment from coming up at all.

Will they succeed in that? I don't know. I do know attempts will be made to tell the Progressive Caucus to shut up and get in line. I'm fully aware that the Lee amendment would not pass, but it would, I say as I've said before, stake out the territory. And, I note, I'm also aware of the stench of putting party politics above human life.

Just yesterday, I said it was "music" to hear Nancy Pelosi tell her colleagues not to confine their works to what George Bush will sign. Sadly, she seems unaware that those who confine their works to what will immediately pass the House are no more than a half-step better.

*Footnote: The only recent poll I found that specifically asked about withdrawal timetable options was a USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted March 2-4. It found that 20% favored "immediate" withdrawal and another 38% wanted out by March 2008, i.e., within one year. No intermediate option (i.e., "in six months" or "by the end of 2007") was offered. (Full results here; you might have to scroll down if newer polls have been posted.)

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