President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq.
Democrats backed off after the House failed, on a vote of 222 to 203, to override the president's veto of a $124 billion measure that would have required U.S. forces to begin withdrawing as early as July. But party leaders made it clear that the next bill will have to include language that influences war policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) outlined a second measure that would step up Iraqi accountability, "transition" the U.S. military role and show "a reasonable way to end this war."
It'll be interesting to see how that works out. But the point below sort of outlines the thinking and, it appears, will attract some Republican support:
But a new dynamic also is at work, with some Republicans now saying that funding further military operations in Iraq with no strings attached does not make practical or political sense. Rep. Bob Inglis (S.C.), a conservative who opposed the first funding bill, said, "The hallway talk is very different from the podium talk."
While deadlines for troop withdrawals had to be dropped from the spending bill, such language is likely to appear in a defense policy measure that is expected to reach the House floor in two weeks, just when a second war funding bill could be ready for a House vote. Democrats want the next spending measure to pass before Congress recesses on May 25 for Memorial Day weekend.
Also as has been mentioned, and I've asked this question of a number of congressional and administration sources, Congress will most likely push for benchmarks for the Iraqi government:
Benchmarks have emerged as the most likely foundation for bipartisan consensus and were part of yesterday's White House meeting, participants said. "I believe the president is open to a discussion on benchmarks," said Senate Democratic Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), who attended the session. He added that no terms were discussed. "We didn't go into any kind of detail," Durbin said.
"The general sense is that the benchmarks are critical," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), a moderate who opposed the original bill but supports some constraints.
White House officials are also looking to benchmarks as an area of compromise, but they want them to be tied to rewards for achievement, not penalties for failure.
BS. There has to be a stick with any carrots offered. Otherwise it's back to the open-ended commitment with no incentive to accomplish the benchmarks. Whether it should be Congress putting them in place is an entirely different discussion.
As I recall, some benchmarks were indeed discussed as a part of the plan which implemented the surge (and outlined by President Bush when he announced it).
Administration officials note that they do not oppose benchmarks, and in fact have developed them in the past along with Iraqis. But they are sensitive about provoking Iraqis, who bristled last year when benchmarks crafted by U.S. and Iraqi officials became public and left the impression that Washington was dictating to Baghdad.
The plan's benchmarks should be presented in such a way that they point to achievement which will eventually lead to the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq. The benchmarks should be specific, but generic ... a logical progression toward self-sufficiency. And, they should be presented as something both the coalition and the Iraqi government agree upon. That should make it hard to argue that the US is "dictating" anything. The progression should be mostly self-evident and understandable by all as something which any country in Iraq's position would have to accomplish in order to establish itself as the legitimate government of a democratic and free state.
On the political side, the Dems can expect some fallout among the usual suspects:
Democratic leaders have resigned themselves to losing many of the liberals they worked hard to bring on board the first bill. Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.), a leading Senate war opponent who helped to build Democratic consensus in the first round, said he will vote against the second version unless it includes "a binding approach to ending the war." Feingold is seeking a vote on legislation he co-sponsored with Reid to cut off war funding on March 31, 2008. But he added: "I'm willing to listen to other ideas."
Watch the Netroots gear up for this one folks.
UPDATE: And, as mentioned, the reactions from Netroots begin:
There are a number of reasons why this is exactly the type of story the Democrats do not want to see on the issue of Iraq. To begin, and this is extremely important, on a policy level is well past time to bring American military involvement in the Iraq War to an end. America is investing too much, both in terms of dollars and lives, for a cause that is not winnable militarily. What's more, that which America can still accomplish in Iraq is not necessarily contingent on a continued military presence in the country. As such, the suggestion that the Democrats are giving up on the cause of ending the war is extremely problematic.
Two points - one, no one is claiming that the war is winnable on exclusively military terms. But, two, no one that has any sense claims that there isn't a military component to winning the war ... although that is precisely what Jonathan Singer is claiming above.
On a political level, too, standing down to the President on Iraq is quite problematic. While one can argue as to whether the Democrats were elected in 2006 to end the war in Iraq — there is certainly a case to be made that this is true, but others might argue that the Democrats' mandate on the issue is more properly defined as bringing "change" to America's Iraq policy, whatever that means — it is clear that a strong majority of Americans favor setting a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq (57 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll; 59 percent according to a recent Pew Poll; 64 percent, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll; etc.). As such, there is real risk for the Democrats in not going far enough rather than going to far to end the Iraq War.
And here, if Singer is really wanting to base his argument on poll numbers indicating the will of a "strong majority of Americans", he ought to cite the follow-up question to the CBS poll with 64% saying they wanted a timetable for withdrawal:
IF BUSH VETOES FUNDING-TIMETABLE BILL, DEMOCRATS SHOULD.
56% - Fund war anyway 36% - Withhold funding until Bush sets timetable
In the era of George W. Bush the instant someone says "bipartisan consensus" your b.s. detector should start going off, with huge alarm bells and a red siren. Because when the press and the Republicans start breathlessly proclaiming how bipartisan something is, it usually means - nine times out of ten - that the Democrats simply capitulated and gave the president everything he wanted.
Ummm ... and of course we all know what bi-partisan means when Democrats say it ... "we do things my way." Funny how that seems to apply to both sides, huh?
After the usual and expected BDS rhetoric, Willis says:
Even in the face of political success and with the masses on its side, too often the Democratic party still acts as if their heart isn't in it, and I think that's a shame.
That's "reality" Oliver. Oh, and check question two above on the CBS poll, and tell us again about what the "masses" want.
It didn't take the Democrats twenty four hours to drop their knickers. What the heck is wrong with them? Have they no backbone? Have they no pride? GHB in the coffee? Are they freakin' deaf? The American people want a timetable and they want the troops to come home. Sooner rather than later. How difficult is this to understand? I work with developmentally disabled people and they get it just fine. Heck, they even talk about impeachment. They want to start with Cheney first. Extremely perceptive, they are.
John Edwards is right. Send Bush back the original bill and let Bush veto it as many times as he wants. His debacle has been funded and like any good lender, Congress should insist on a repayment plan. In this instance, a reasonable time period to bring the troops home. Make it clear that he is the one who is the obstructionist and that they are representing the will of the people.
Gawd, they get on my last nerve. Next week they'll be whining abut how nobody takes them seriously. If only there was some other option besides the Republicans and one issue candidates.
Starting to pick up on this "will of the people" trend. Again, I point to "question two".
Michael Stickings, on the other hand, thinks the Dems have played this extremely well thus far:
Aside from taking a principled position against the war, they have played this extremely well so far — pushing for withdrawal, forcing a Bush veto, and taking advantage of disagreement in the Republican ranks. Bush must still be held accountable for this disastrous war, but the Democrats can show true leadership if they work out a compromise, with or without Bush, that appeals to those Republicans who are ready to join them in working to end this ongoing madness.
Yeah, I don't think the compromise he's expecting will actually tend to work "to end this ongoing madness". Interestingly, Stickings was against timelines.
But even from the purely partisan point of view the Democrats are making a mistake. They should depoliticize the Iraq issue. If anything, they should publicly hope for the success of the president's policies. If he wins, we all win. We don't want either our friends or our enemies in Iraq calculating their strategies on the premise of a divided and weakened America.
Other points to consider: I just got word that seven House “Democrats” voted to uphold Bush’s veto on the Iraq bill today. They are:
John Barrow, Georgia Dan Boren, Oklahoma Lincoln Davis, Tennessee Jim Marshall, Georgia Jim Matheson, Utah Michael McNulty, New York Gene Taylor, Mississippi
McNulty’s toast. The Netroots will see to replacing him next year. The rest of these DINOs may be harder to reach. The seven were among the thirteen congresspersons who voted against the compromise bill last week. These gentlemen need to be made uncomfortable, I say.
As the emailer who alerted me to this says, "I found the last excerpted line to be Sopranos-ish at the minimum, Stalinist in its menacing "thought police" arrogance."
But as I pointed out yesterday, among the Netroots there is no place or tolerance for division "from the right" of the Netroots position.
Steny Hoyer has openly dismissed Jack Murtha's "short leash" post-veto proposal and is now cheering with Republicans for benchmarks to hold the Iraqi government accountable (PDF). Is Hoyer smoking Blunts? Why else would he be agreeing with the Republican Minority Whip, rather than the majority of the American people who oppose this war and George Bush's handling of it? "Benchmarks" is Capital Hill speak for "no accountability and more war."
Democrats should be asking Steny Hoyer what he thinks they were elected to do in November. Call your representatives. Tell them to Just Say No to Steny Hoyer and his capitulation to George Bush.
The war is wrong and it is failing and the longer it takes Congress to hold the President accountable, the more people will die.
(Update: This is very time critical. Decisions are being made right now. If you can, please stop what you're doing to make those calls. Thanks! — Pach)
Yes indeed ... "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble"
President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq
I guess it’s really not so impreative for the Dems to end the war after all.
That’s the sound of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi being b*tch-slapped by the man in charge.
be an example of a liberal pundit substituting a false fact in place of the truth:
”IF BUSH VETOES FUNDING-TIMETABLE BILL, DEMOCRATS SHOULD.
56% - Fund war anyway”
in order to aggressively assert his agenda? An excellent example of a liberal pundit with disregard for the truth in his quest to present his readers with a good case for the political result he wishes to bring about.
What is sad is that the lazy urban liberal sheeple will read Mr. Willis and say to each other something like this:
”Oliver is right. When will Bush quit ignoring the will of a majority of Americans?”
and perhaps click over to a site like Hullabaloo, where they will, provided Oliver’s post is mentioned (it must be stated that Oliver is not the most widely read liberal pundit in the blogosphere – for obvious reasons) read instant confirmation of this lie as the liberal pundits recognize how this fabrication fits nicely into and confirms the Liberal Narrative on the war.
Other examples of a total disregard for the truth will be evident throughout the liberal blogosphere today as they drum up support for the misguided efforts of the Democratic leadership.
Q Sir, could you elaborate a little bit more on the benchmarks you’ll be reviewing in your September assessment that even Joe Six-pack or armchair generals could understand? Is it possible that the number of spectacular attacks could continue throughout the summer, and yet you still see progress — effort to buy time for the Iraqi government?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Yeah, I — this is something we’ve actually been working on a good bit, and in fact, we gave to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs yesterday a set of what we are sort of thinking about. Now I need to do more coordination.
Ryan Crocker and I are proceeding on this. We need to do some more ciphering on this and do some more thinking on it. But, you know, we provide an enormous wealth of detail right now that goes into the 9010 Report, the quarterly report that goes into weekly joint staff metrics and a whole variety of other submissions.
And with respect to that, we will probably focus on four areas: security, economics, politics/governance and rule of law.
In the security arena, you’re looking at, you know, what is it that would show you that you have been able to achieve, to help the Iraqis achieve greater population security? What about the influence of militias and what about the progress of the Iraqi security forces?
When you look at the — sort of the economic arena, again, we’re looking for things that show that the Iraqis are into this big-time, which we believe they are, but also show that our approach is having the effect that we hope that it will have. But in the economic arena, how are they doing spending their money?
As you know, last year, the Iraqis did not spend some $10 (billion) to $12 billion of their budget for — a year in which the International Monetary Fund was going to allow them to run a 5 percent deficit, which is common for countries that are sort of coming out of the situation in Iraq — which Iraq finds itself. So this is very important, that they in fact spend the money that they have for all Iraqis, for the good of them.
And as you know, much of what is done for Iraqis, the whole social safety network, which is very substantial but which is torn and frayed in a variety of different locations where the security situation’s been tough, this is all done through the ministries. And so they’ve got to spend their money. So we’ll look at how are they doing in spending the budget, in particularly what about the capital investment account? They’re good at spending salaries; the question is, are they buying the equipment, making the improvements, the construction and so forth.
What about banks? How are the banks doing? Are they reopening? And an interesting phenomenon, by the way — there is now private banking in Iraq for the first time, I believe, ever, or at least certainly in a few decades. And I noted — I just saw where there’s private banks in Kirkuk. There’s, believe it or not, a private bank, I think, in Ramadi or in someplace in Anbar province, maybe Haditha.
So again, how are they doing — how are the provinces doing in receiving their money and, again, in spending it? Is the government doing all that it can for all provinces and all Iraqis?
Politics and governance — obviously there we’re talking about progress on key legislation. I’ve talked about that. You’re looking at what about if there are some malign actors in some places in government? I mentioned that the deputy minister of Health was detained with the — at the direction of the prime minister, I believe — certainly his support, the head of the facility protection security forces — that kind of activity, again, is what we’re looking on there, and then just sort of the progress in the development of governmental capacity, ministry development.
And then in the rule of law, how is progress on the development of the criminal justice system, their detention facilities and system — which is a big, big challenge and they have had big problems in that, as you know, in the past, particularly during the period when sectarian — where certain Iraqi security force elements really were hijacked by sectarian militias as well. How is the Rule of Law Green Zone coming along and other initiatives, the circuit rider judicial effort and some of these things? So again, that’s roughly what we’re looking at.
As I mentioned, we just first gave a first draft pre-decisional think piece to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs yesterday. The Joint Staff and everybody else will work it. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and I need to do some more work on it as well, and then we will move it forward.
Consider that it’s taken 90 days just to get to the point of actually negotiating a compromise on the supplemental, for an institution that has 218 years of history.
So, by what yardstick does one measure political progress?
”Starting to pick up on this "will of the people" trend. Again, I point to "question two".”
A good opportunity to watch the Liberal Narrative amend itself as needed to support current events. “Will of the people” is apparently perceived to be a useful justification for the actions of the Democratic leadership. God knows what their real reasons are. A good example of: "If it works – it flies; truth be damned."
This technique of ignoring plain fact used to be applied to entire polls. With the training of the sheeple it can now be applied within polls to ignore those questions that provide answers that do not support the Narrative – and the sheeple lap it up. It’s only a short step to: “Every poll taken shows that the American people are behind Congressional moves to include a timetable for withdrawal in any funding bill.”
If a foolish liberal commenter cites “question two” they are quickly shut down (perhaps banned). Get an objection comment from a right wing “troll” citing “question two”? Identify the troll as a Wingnut and ignore the comment. Simply label it Rightwingnoisemachine. RWNM started out as an identifier for comments that were supportive of Republican talking points. It has transmogrified into a catch-all identifier of any statement that is inconsistent with the Narrative –true or not. Once labeled thusly, all true liberals will treat that information as mistaken or irrelevant – truth be damned.
Remember those schoolyard taunt responses that said that the taunter was really what they were taunting you about being (obviously I can’t remember one right now)? It works like that. On leftie blogs, the Wingers are the ones who care not about the truth and who are disconnected from the "Reality" of the Narrative.
Actually the masses I refer to is the overwhelming desire of most Americans to be out of Iraq. The slight of hand claiming that people believe the troops ought to be funded (a position I share) is the opposite of what I and the majority desires is the usual conservative spin.
Furthermore, I’m not interested in "bipartisanship" when the result of pols slapping each other on the back is death and chaos. I don’t want Dems to be bipartisan for the sake of it. Screw that.
I believe in funding the troops and redeploying from Iraq. It’s pretty cut and dry, I don’t know why you guys are having such a hard time understanding that. As the poll you cite shows by almost a 2 to 1 margin most Americans want a timetable out.
I believe in funding the troops and redeploying from Iraq. It’s pretty cut and dry, I don’t know why you guys are having such a hard time understanding that.
That’s not the question on the table, Oliver, and you know it. The way to have that happen is to defund it ... I don’t know why you have such difficulty understanding that.
As the poll you cite shows by almost a 2 to 1 margin most Americans want a timetable out.
But if the timetable is vetoed (per the poll - and, as you’ve noted, that’s what has happened), they want the war funded. Note, it’s doesn’t say they want the "troops funded". It says they want the "war" funded. How do you square that with your "masses" statement?
Starting to pick up on this "will of the people" trend.
America was formed as a Republic rather than a Democracy in order to prevent the “will of the masses” from running amok. The framers distrusted the populace and put curbs in place to prevent the disaster that was the French Revolution. We elect representatives who are supposed to study the issues and reach a decision in our behalf. While they should take into consideration the will of the people, (if the don’t they may be out of a job.) they are not supposed to stick their finger in the air before making decisions based on “Anyway the wind blows if fine with me.”
Preferring that it all be over isn’t the same thing as having some fantasy that we can just declare it over and that will mean anything.
Are you serious? Look, this is not a war we have to be involved in. Heck, it’s not even a war, the war was won. This is a huge social engineering experiment, a big government effort to reshape Iraqi political culture and society. We certainly can decide that it’s not worth doing it. We certainly can decide to withrdraw from Iraq. In fact, given that most of the country is now opposed to the war, the President is now at 28% approval, and the Congress won’t fund any more major troop increases, it is all but inevitable that we’ll leave soon. I’ve also sensed a real growing level of anger among young people who in the past were very apathetic and apolitical. The times, they are a-changing.