Friday, July 13, 2007 Republicans Worry About Iraq

Image credit: U.S. Army

Photo caption: Paratroopers from 1st Platoon, Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, conduct a dismounted patrol through Al Suleikh, Iraq, June 20.

Yesterday, I wrote that the Skelton Bill, A.K.A. the Iraq Responsible Redeployment Act, was the sort of thing that the Democrats must keep passing in order to end the war. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead backed me up:

Facing rock-bottom poll numbers and the judgment of history, President Bush has little to lose politically in using the last 18 months of his presidency to try to prove critics of his war policy wrong. The president followed that path Thursday, finding promise in a "young democracy" in Iraq despite descriptions by his own administration of a deeply fractured society.

The rest of his Republican Party, however, is looking at something entirely different: elections for the House, Senate and the presidency that, absent a miraculous turnaround in Iraq or a suicidal stumble by Democrats, are headed for a debacle.

Unpopular Bush risks little by staying course

[emphasis mine]

This is the political dilemma I was referring to yesterday. The Republicans will look worse the more times they vote against the wishes of the country. They are in trouble in many places, as Ms. Lochhead observes:

Republicans are watching their private poll numbers plunge, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

"They just simply cannot let the status quo continue for much longer, or they are cooked gooses," he said. Unless things change by November 2008, he predicted, Republicans "lose seats in both houses, and even the weakest of the major Democrats, probably Hillary Clinton, will win" the presidency.

The poll landscape shows "Republicans who ought to be completely secure that are maybe in the upper 40s, low 50s," Sabato said, "and then you have the weaker ones ... being blown away in landslides."

Unpopular Bush risks little by staying course

Bush may be risking nothing, but his party is risking everything by continuing on this course. Until they vote the right way, and maybe even then if it's too late to matter, the Republicans will lose ground politically. The inevitable result is that they will cooperate. Not today, I suspect, but they will eventually, or they'll reap the whirlwind of electoral disaster next year.

So what's the worry for Democrats? Just this:

[former George H.W. Bush aide Jim] Pinkerton believes Bush knows he can hang on because no one wants to be tagged with losing the war.

"What the Dick Lugar, Pete Domenici-type Republicans and the Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer-type Democrats would love, is some sort of bipartisan deal that backs us out of Iraq, even if we lose, because then it would be bipartisan and nobody will get blamed," Pinkerton said, referring to two prominent Senate Republicans who have broken with Bush on Iraq and the Democratic House speaker and majority leader. "But that bipartisanship has to include Bush."

Unpopular Bush risks little by staying course

Here's a clue - Bush lost it already by going into Iraq unprepared to deal with the aftermath of invasion. His top general at the time recommended deploying twice the force we have there now. No orders were issued to stop the looting and other chaos that went on after the Iraqi government collapsed. In short, that ship has sailed.

What we need to do is worry about the other war we're losing, Afghanistan. We might still be able to pull that one out. Iraq is lost. It's time to face reality.

Yesterday, Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza wrote a column asking readers to comment on what the Democrats could do to stop the war. What I wrote was this:

It's simple. Keep passing bills that tell the President he has to get out of Iraq. As long as the Republicans vote in favor of the war, they risk political disaster next year. Eventually, they'll see the light and come around. I don't know how long that will take, but unless the Democrats provide them the opportunity to keep voting against the wishes of the American public, they won't have to make a decision.


Meanwhile, there's no trick or magic incantation that will make this go away. The Democrats need to be as relentless as the Republicans have been in starting this war if they're going to end it.

That's the key, I think. It's not going to happen today. It may not happen until after the next elections, but I'm not willing to wait. I suspect that few people in Iraq are willing to wait that long, either.

UPDATE: Added photo and my comment on Chris Cillizza's column.

UPDATE 2: Republican Senators Lugar (IN) and Warner (VA), have just proposed a measure that would require President Bush to seek reauthorization for the war in October. Senator Warner, incidently, is up for re-election next year. (h/t Taylor Marsh).


Taylor Marsh said...

The congressional Democrats' main worry is looking feckless, which is the way most of America sees them now. Pelosi did what she could on her side, but Harry Reid has not shown any leadership whatsoever on Iraq. It doesn't matter if you lose the vote. It matters how hard you engage the fight.

Cujo359 said...

That should be their main worry, politically speaking. Congress' popularity is falling, in no small part due to the lack of meaningful action in this area.

If Americans are left with the choice of the lesser of two evils, they sometimes decide, as Ralph Nader put it, that you're still choosing evil. Whether that translates into apathy or third-party candidacy, it's not good for the Democrats.

shoephone said...

You both make good points. This is the stage of the game where the Dems have just begun to really pull together and fight. The fact that the House bill passed on a party line vote shows that Pelosi (and Hoyer) have what it takes to herd all those cats and keep them in line and on task. Reid, on the other hand, is so ineffectual it's stunning.

The falling poll numbers for Congress are a direct result of the new majority not getting it right on Iraq -- yet. I think most citizens are not patient enough to wait for the magical month of September, only to hear Petraeus tell Congress "we need more time, we need more troops, we need more money". The bombing last week that killed 130 innocent Iraqi civilians seems to have been the tipping point for GOPers like Warner. I'll be curious to see how Lugar, Hagel and Warner react when Bush deploys another 10,000 troops in August when Congress is on vacation and can't say "no, you don't."

This is not the time for citizens to back off their legislators now that we've finally got them paying attention. But, there are some party loyalists who would like us all to simply STFU. Cujo, we just saw eveidence of that on EP again today from the all too predictable party chair of the West Seattle Dems. But he's been on my case since last year when I expressed disdain for Cantwell and her non-responses to the Iraq issue.

Thanks for sticking up for me. It's nice to have someone as articulate as you in my corner.

op99 said...

Unfortunately, I think the impetus for our withdrawal will have to come from Iraq. If Maliki gets the heave-ho, and the Iraqi government "asks us to leave," that will leave very little political cover for the domestic warmongers.