Tuesday, February 6

Welcome Back

Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny, "G.O.P. Senators Thwart Debate on Iraq Policy", New York Times February 5
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the independent who sided with Republicans in agreeing not to take up the resolution, called the proposal “a resolution of irresolution,” saying it criticized the president’s plan but did nothing concrete to stop it. He goaded colleagues who opposed the buildup to take more definitive action if that was their view. “Have the courage of your convictions to accept the consequences of your convictions,” he said.

In addition to the resolution introduced by Mr. Gregg, declaring that Congress should not cut off financing for forces in Iraq, Republican leaders had sought a Democratic commitment for a vote on another alternative, one introduced by Senator John McCain , Republican of Arizona. That measure would set 11 conditions for the Iraqi government if it wanted to retain American support.

“Senator McConnell led his Republican troops off the cliff,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The White House welcomed the Senate vote. “All sides have a right to be heard in this debate, and we support Senator McConnell’s and the Republicans’ right to be able to offer the amendments they want to offer,” said a spokeswoman, Dana Perino.

Mr. Sununu, who sided with Republicans, but declined to say whether he would ultimately vote to oppose the Iraq plan, said, “It may come as a surprise to my colleagues, but most voting members of the American public think that the Senate spends all too much time talking and not enough time casting votes.”

It may come as a surprise to Senator Sununu, but most Americans, voters or no, can't name their own Senators, let alone express an educated opinion about how they conduct their business.

Call me old-fashioned. Hell, just call me old. I believe strongly that we're better off when the Deliberative Body does less, not more. As Exhibit A and Exhibit B I offer you the last two Congresses. Not that the Senate accomplished anything, mind you; it's just that the mostly-failed Republican attempt to turn it into a high-speed duplicator was the worst of what it didn't accomplish.

"Happy endings depend on stopping the story before it's over," Orson Welles once remarked. There's no happy ending in Iraq. The President, the Republican leadership (I like how Mitch McConnell stepped out in front on this one. Mitch McConnell couldn't flatten a penny with a passing locomotive. This has Trent Lott's Brillantine prints all over it.) and the twin bookends of warflogging, McCain and Lieberman, have simply decided that two more years of disaster, even though it may be on a considerably larger scale, is preferable to admitting they fucked up. Hope's gone; every day we spend in Iraq now makes the United States less secure. All of these people know that.

One should never make more of a Senate vote than what is actually there, but it's clear that Democrats jumped like startled kittens at the "You're Voting to Defund the Troops" routine, which must be chalked up to Stockholm Syndrome in my book. You've got the podium now, Harry; it's useful to pound it from time to time.

Okay, okay, maybe not so much in the Senate, and the whole thing was just shadowboxing in preparation for some half-hearted road work in advance of an undercard flyweight bout. The Senate is going to spend the year trying to choose between monochrome and contrasting-stripe trunks. Bush was going to get his escalation, such as it is, regardless, and nobody has the stomach for a Constitutional fight. I repeat myself, but the last chance for a positive result ended in October, 2002, with the Iraq War Resolution (and yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the price Democrats extracted for that one, Colin Powell's visit to the UN, which was supposed to serve as the conscience of a Senate which lacked its own). The soundest course of action left to us now is, sadly, to to let this matter augur to its logical conclusion in the hopes that that thirty percent of the public, and 46% of the Senate, who still think it's a good idea are not listened to again for at least a generation.

The threat of a non-binding resolution was a shot across the administration's bow (though, of course, long after that tenth-rater had begun to sink; there's no way in hell there'll be any further escalation no matter who votes for it). An actual non-binding resolution would be nothing more than salve for a bunch of bruised egos who'd facilitated the disaster in the first place. The "Surge" will send men back into combat who really have no business going back into combat. But it will also force us to decide whether to send them without the number of Humvees military doctrine calls for, or else send the required number by drawing from the (supposedly sacrosanct) strategic reserve. And Republicans like Joe Lieberman would have us make that choice rather than admit a glaringly obvious mistake.

1 comment:

joel hanes said...

> there's no way in hell there'll be any further escalation no matter who votes for it.

You are insufficiently cynical.

Bush and Cheney are doing their very best to provoke Iran into some reaction colorable as an act of war. Their best is likely to be enough by March, when the aircraft carriers are in place. Fox News will help.

And after our brave soldiers are so perfidiously attacked by The Axis of Evil, the flagging Republicans will once more rally round the flag; it'll start with air strikes, but that's only how it will start.

My son will be of draft age in only two years.