Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Revolutions and Resolutions

What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about [Republican and Democratic] extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents. -Robert F. Kennedy

That quote applies to both sides of the aisle, I think. It particularly applies to the idiots bloggers who publish statements like this one:

Over the course of the next two years I think many of these Republicans will regret their decision of support for this Democrat resolution as they realize the extent of its impact. Their careers most likely will end in the same undignified manner as Judas ended his own life. Speaking for myself I can say this without hesitation, there are now seventeen pieces of silver in our party historically represented by red, and I promise you I shall not be colorblind in 08.

You know the type-morons. Lets try to stick to the facts shall we?

I've watched the Congressional debate over the past week with a combination of bemusement and disgust. Bemusement at how both sides can work themselves into a tizzy when the executive still has a lot of cards to play and the Congress only has a few-a balance that was given away years ago in the ascension of the "Imperial Presidency" and strengthened when Emperor Palpatine George W. Bush came to power. Disgust at the way the rhetoric has gone-on both sides-but particularly on the Democratic side. As I wrote a month ago, " The Democrats of today are analogous to the golfer who hits a good drive and then pisses it away inside the 150 yard marker. You drive for show, but you play the short game for dough and the Dem's will be lucky to make the cut"

The debate over the NON-BINDING resolution and the reaction to its predictable defeat in the Senate by the Democratic leadership are nothing short of ridiculous, and depressing. The Republican rhetoric is equally histrionic, especially when they continue to say that the apocalypse will occur if we all don't quietly follow George W. Bush over a cliff into the abyss of war without end in Iraq. At least no end until January 20, 2009.

I think it would be more helpful if, instead of continuing to mouth platitudes on both sides about "supporting the troops", both sides could step back from the board for a minute and review the facts.

Fact 1) George W. Bush has chosen to ignore the recommendations of a commission he appointed, to go with the recommendations of the same little group of morons advisers who got us into the mess in Iraq in the first place.

Fact 2) The United States is hedging its bets with the surge because the amount of troops committed is: a) not really a surge-more like a kidnapping of troops who deserve to go home and b)not really enough to get the job over with on the timetable the American people would like to see. A surge-by my definition-would involve a lot more forces AND it would involve Iraqi cities being reduced to smoldering ruins Ala la Dresden. So that all Iraqis would understand once for all that they are in this together. They either fix the problem or they go away.

Fact 3) The people of the United States have used up their patience with the war in Iraq and in particular have no confidence int he way the George W. Bush and the team that he put into place are running it. That is what the voters really said in November and the Democrats would be wise to remember it. Because what that previous statement really says is that public opinion will turn again in a heartbeat if the Democratic majority goes, legislatively, into areas that are reckless and are perceived as being self destructive. Rep Murtha-would be wise to remember that. After all, his premature statements probably cost the House 15 Republican votes that could have been theirs and in the Senate probably 4 Republicans more who would have voted against the President, had he not prematurely opened his mouth.

What last week's flurry of activity was really about, in my humble opinion, is the frustration of the Democrats to be unable to do what their compatriots in England can do-namely force a vote of "no confidence" in the President and his Cabinet and therefore bring down the government. The founding fathers were wise not to include that little provision into the Constitution, knowing full well that the trade off was that if the nation got a bad President-as it has now-it would be stuck with him for four long years. Or eight years, when the opposition party is stupid enough to nominate someone who allows himself to get Swift-boated out of an election he could have won, had they had a man of stature and reason to nominate. That will be available in the future, but for now, I'm sticking to my guns. The election of 2004 was the Democrats to lose and they did.

Rather than oppose the surge, Democrats should embrace it, learn to love it, and use it, to highlight each and every failing that has been the foreign and defense policy that has been the Bush administration. As I also wrote last month:

Consider: Instead of passing resolutions or whining again and again about the "surge" something that they cannot stop before fall of 2007, they could be VERY effectively attacking the President on his flanks. If the Democrats had half an inkling about how to get real things accomplished they would be sitting and waiting for him to submit his military budget.

The pursuit of a non binding resolution was meaningless and those types of activities are well not to be pursued. Had I been Speaker Pelosi, and I thank God in heaven I am not, I would have not attacked the surge. I would have attacked its author. Namely it would have been better to propose a resolution to censure the President.

Wait a minute, you may ask, "no president has been censured since Andrew Jackson and besides Russ Feingold proposed that in 2005 and got nowhere with it". True on both counts. However, Feingold's problem was more one of timing, e.g. the public attitude had not turned. And as for the lack of the use of the censure since 1834......well good ideas take a while to come back. Plus for at least 80 years, machine politics in the US prevented such a vote from occurring. After all the filibuster was invented in 1841 soon after Jackson's censure. ( which was expunged by the Senate in 1837). (For foreign readers, the US Senate has long had a tradition allowing unlimited debate on a subject-the House has no such tradition-and it allows the minority party to stifle a vote on a subject by wearing them down). No matter what the outcome, the use of censure against Bush would have a two fold affect-it would have attacked the CEO who ran the adventure-without attacking the adventure (read:war) itself.

It would not have exposed the Democrats to the withering criticism that they were trying to undermine the war because properly worded, it would have attacked the timing of the surge-it's 4 years late-rather than the idea itself. Then again, the Repugs would simply have gone back to their tired old argument, namely that failure to blindly accept the President's tired ideas somehow constitutes treason.

The censure would not have been binding, nonetheless it would have been a strong statement and by what I can find does not require a 3/5 majority to pass. It might have been filibustered to death, then again it would have offered the voters in favor some plausible deniablity. One could legitimately argue it was not after the current execution of the war.

As for the rest-well my argument from last month still remains. Phrased coarsely, it amounts to: " OK Bonehead, you love these Goddamn Iraqis so much, you are now going to be called to account to pay the bill for this war. You want a surge? Then you are going to : pay these troops properly, equip them properly and stop cutting end strength that is desperately need. You are going to provide veterans the benefits they have earned that your administration has, to date, refused to pay for and you are going to do more to involve the nation in the effort".

Essentially the strategy would be that of multiple betting rounds in poker without giving the President a chance to call.

Pay raise for 2008-double to 6 %. Very supportable since the Military Coalition has pointed out that Presidents budget falls short of the pay gap by about 4 percent.

Capitalize on the real cuts the administration has made in veterans benefits and health care-one could use the latest WP story as a starting point-or the VA budget. One could also point out the numerous cases of troops having to purchase on their own the right equipment, because the US procurement establishment is broken.

Fully fund concurrent receipt for disability and retirement.

Demand the Army field full up Humvee and other vehicle protection items.

Place a hold on any ends strength reductions in the services. Furhtermore, one could very easily attack the restructuring of the reserves and the requirement for the "back door draft" (something that the current SECDEF is trying to end too).

Finally, do not approve any increase in the federal debt ceiling. Since the Bush administration is wedded to tax cuts at the expense of any thing else it would be forced to make some real choices-or veto the budget. Which would allow the Democrats to point out who really was supporting the troops-and who was trying to screw them over-while never directly attacking the surge.

But what if the surge works you ask? Well, first of all, the odds of it working are low. Even so, point out that it took the administration 4 years and how much treasure and lives lost to come to that conclusion. Still a good way to put the "decider" in a box.

Seems to me that would be a hell of a lot more effective than what the majority in Congress is doing now.

Even lame duck Chief Executives have a lot of power. Congress only has some blunt instruments to wield. So its more prudent to make the President stop his pet war project. That's the real message the voters sent in November by the way, namely that GW's time was up and it was time for HIM to stop his war. Not to make Congress stop it. The path I outlined above would allow the Congress to keep the pressure on while doing something that REALLY supported the troops in harms way.

Makes too much sense-which is why the Democrats won't do it. Gotta appeal to the party base right?


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