CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush and Democrats who control the U.S. Congress are on a collision course over Iraq war funding with neither side yet showing a willingness to back down.
The festering feud is the most dramatic example of political brinkmanship since a 1995 budget dispute between then-Democratic President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans led to a government shutdown.
Back then, Americans perceived Clinton as the voice of reason and saw Republicans as over-reaching in their drive to cut the federal budget.
But in this case, the outcome is not so clear. Democrats were elected to control of Congress last November on a platform to scale back U.S. involvement in Iraq, and are trying to do that by attaching a withdrawal timetable to Bush's request for $100 billion to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although polls shows strong support for the Democrats' position, White House officials believe Americans will ultimately agree with Bush that even though the Iraq war is unpopular and people are weary of it, in the end the troops must be funded.
If their plan is to govern, Democrats have several opportunities to work with President Bush to achieve goals they claim to share. Trade deals on Panama, Peru, Colombia and South Korea await a Congressional vote, and their defeat would harm those nations and the U.S. national interest. On immigration reform, Mr. Bush is closer to most Democrats than to many in his own party. The No Child Left Behind Act is up for reauthorization, and the Alternative Minimum Tax (a k a Mandatory Maximum Tax) needs another patch to avoid hitting 15 million more taxpayers this year.
We have nothing against partisanship, and Democrats have every right to reward their supporters and pursue their policy goals. Some of these are part of the "Six for '06" bills that House Democrats passed easily in their first days, though they still have to run the gantlet of the Senate. But our guess is that Democrats would help themselves more, and have a better chance of gaining seats in 2008, if they show they are open to compromise and can point to priorities that became law.
Is this the “Pack It In” phase? Maybe. Maybe not. Adam Smith once remarked that “There is a lot of ruin in a nation.” But of late we seem to be pressing our luck.
I placed my own life on the line in this cause, and know others who have died for it. The assault on Baghdad on April 7, 2003, was not my first combat action, but that day I went expecting to die and leave my children orphans. I did it because I thought it was worth something. Other young men and women were willing to die, and if I died with them, my wife knew what to tell our kids: “This is how you live your life. Doing the most that you can do. Moving forward. Standing up for what you believe in. Standing with others. Recognizing it can cost you your life.”
Because I’m looking at all this and saying, maybe it is time to pack it in. Forget the phased withdrawal plan, just get out. Iraq and the Middle East be damned. Nothing new about living with genocide, when it’s happening at a convenient distance. We managed to pretend as a nation we didn’t have Southeast Asia’s blood on our hands after we bolted from there. We can do it again.
Iraq may become a base for terrorists who want to attack us. That will be George Bush’s fault, and we’ll deal with them as we should have all along. As a police problem.
Iran’s mad mullahs may come to dominate the Middle East and develop their nuclear weapons, but there’s not really much we can do about that. Not without someone getting hurt.Maybe it’s time to pack it in on our pretensions of world leadership entirely.
Let’s relinquish the seat on the United Nations Security Council and join the European Union. Europe does so many things so much better than us, anyway. Socialized medicine, cradle-to-grave welfare, maintaining good relations with despotic regimes, avoiding responsibility and being admired for it.
Anyway, Europe will need somewhere to flee to as it crumbles, and our great oceans provide a great illusion of security. EU membership will expedite that. If it opens the third-world floodgates and requires us to honor Sharia law, well, it will take time before those things destroy us the way they are destroying Europe. Not our generation’s problem, is it?
It’s easy to get discouraged, when all you see looks like failure, and even those you rely on seem to wavering. It’s easy to want out.
But I can’t quite bring myself to say or believe any of those things. Not when the lives and futures of my children depend on this fight. Not when there are soldiers in the field who are willing to die for them. Not when the future and freedom of millions of people … even some of those who hate us … also depend on us as they have for decades.
I can only hope that if my government has stumbled, and that it will pick itself up. The disgust I feel and the desire to just walk away must only be momentary. We are constantly fed the illusion of many choices in America, and people believe this war is one of them. But there really is no choice. It may cost us, but this war against evil men committed to our destruction is what life has presented us, and we must fight it.
However, their initial flurry of legislation stands in stark contrast to the current Congressional quagmire. It is understandable; Democrats are busy prosecuting administration officials over the U.S. attorney firings, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are pre-occupied with their Presidential campaign. But the level of politicization over the Iraq War funding is nothing but pathetic, pernicious, pandering and posturing. Proposing to withhold troops until Congress deems they've had enough training (Murtha), setting specific limits on troops rotations (dictating to our generals), cutting off funding to the Iraqi government if benchmarks aren't met (If they're losing, won't they need more help?), furnishing a Bill that has no chance of being signed by the President, and lastly, using the Bill as a tool to insert billions of pork that Democrats campaigned so heartily to fight.
It's shameful to witness Congressmen prattle on about their support for the troops when they are simultaneously using our soldiers as pawns in a chess game with the administration. Harry Reid blurts meaningless platitudes, and gets railed by veterans. Nancy Pelosi tries to act like the Secretary of State and gets slammed by even the liberal media. In such a short amount of time, Democrats have gone from a position of power and even some moral authority, to quickly squander it by repeatedly baiting Republicans and inciting them to force a legislative standstill. Who does this serve?
Democrats feel it serves their cause, their political agenda, to ignore these facts or downplay them. Republicans are far from innocent at the pandering game [Passing Bills to save comatose Floridians], but the present Democratic intransigence is causing morale to suffer at home and abroad. The fight overseas in Iraq is far more important than political squabbling at home.