The Wall Street Journal has a spot-on editorial today about the U.S. Democrats’ (and some Republicans’) craven attempts to lose the Iraq war while attempting to evade the responsibility for doing so:
Consider the resolution pushed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday by Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel, two men who would love to be President if only they could persuade enough voters to elect them. Both men voted for the Iraq War. But with that war proving to be more difficult than they thought, they now want to put themselves on record as opposing any further attempts to win it.
If they were serious and had the courage of their convictions, they'd attempt to cut off funds for the Iraq effort. But that would mean they would have to take responsibility for what happens next. By passing "non-binding resolutions," they can assail Mr. Bush and put all of the burden of success or failure on his shoulders.
This weaselly behaviour is being echoed by the Democrats’ spear-carriers in the wider public arena. On Wednesday, so-called View moderator Rosie O’Donnell was in her now-routine self-righteous mode, putting forth the notion that a Senator -- any Senator -- should call for the President to be impeached. In the same breath, she then acknowledged that it would be an empty gesture that would only be for the history books. (Had O’Donnell actually read a history book, she might know that impeachment proceedings begin in the House, not the Senate.)
The argument being offered by some Democrats is that they cannot cut funding while forces are in theatre. Yet this most assuredly was, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, a “known known” during the mid-term elections last fall in which Democrats asked voters to give them the authority to fund – or not fund – the war effort. If the Democrats had no intention of using that power until the forces were back home and such a vote were meaningless, shouldn’t they have told the voters as much?
Further, the argument that they cannot cut funding while the troops are in Iraq is a lame one. If Congress reversed funding, or refused to authorize further funding, the President would have no choice but to plan for an orderly withdrawal of forces and equipment. The problem for the Democrats is that everyone would know who was at least partly responsible for the events that would flow from that withdrawal, and those deciders would be held accountable for those events.
Short term, this craven strategy may be a winner for the Democrats, but in the medium term they may find themselves hoist by their own petard. If they voted to cut the funding now, most forces would probably be home or on their way home by the 2008 presidential election. But thanks to their clever line dancing, the Democrats have ensured that Iraq will be an issue in the 2008 campaign, and issue number one facing the next President, whether he or she be red or blue.
The Democrats are also inviting the spectre of an anti-war independent candidate, and, more ominously, grassroots efforts to cut funding emerging during the primary campaigns, which may result in Democrat candidates making statements or taking positions they may regret later. (Remember that it was a surging Howard Dean campaign that was responsible for John Kerry’s vote against war funding in 2004, resulting in Kerry’s “I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”).
Serious candidates seeking to become Commander in Chief cannot fashion themselves a cloak of Congressional resolutions, petitions and CNN polls clipped together like the infamous AmEx card frock worn to the Oscars a few years ago. Nor can they argue they won’t have the authority to direct the forces. They will be asked what they are going to do with Presidential power, and “I won’t lie like Bush did” won’t be an adequate answer. Like Karl Malden holding a bare light bulb up to Vivien Leigh’s face in a “Streetcar Named Desire,” the primaries threaten to expose the true face of the Democrats.