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July 21, 2007

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Now this, my only response to is: *Applause*, and Hurrah!


"DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I'll just tell you that, in private conversations months ago, Republican senators, senior Republican senators were anxious to move away from the White House, to move towards some sort of withdrawal. Now they're not talking that way. They're talking, "We've got to stick with the president." And why? Two words: Harry Reid."

Senate Republicans are willing to get their arses handed to them again in 2008. Why? Two words: Harry Reid.

You can get really stubborn and call the bluff of the guy holding the nut hand. You're not going to hurt his feelings by distrusting him. You might regret your own stubbornness, however.

Right now Harry Reid's cards are just much better. The Senators can blame themselves for that.

I guess as a coda I should add that, you could make a strong argument that:

  • If being nicer to the GOP would save troops' lives and make less of a hash out of Iraq, but
  • it would also lead to less of an electoral bloodbath in 2008 because the Republicans would do the right thing and end the war,
  • the morally right thing would be to be nice to the Republicans, butter up their egos, and get the troops home

That's all fine and good, except that I dispute the first notion. The probability that enough Republicans would find the courage to stand up to President Cheney, even in order to forestall their own electoral demise, to change policy is very small. Therefore, if you can't save troops lives between now and 2008, at least play the game so as to minimize the chance that anyone will ever have to die for a stupid Republican after 2008.

What exactly is it that Brooks believes these Republican senators would be doing if it weren't for that dastardly Harry Reid? These guys have been spectering since before Reid was majority leader, and I don't believe they'd stop doing it simply because Reid did something different. And I don't know what Reid would be doing in Brooks's ideal world either -- offering McConnell co-leadership?

Gutless bastards: I doubt it's possible for them to feel shame, or I would fax or mail this to their offices. By rights, it should be in the NY Times or WaPost. Thanks for your usual forceful clarity.

They should be ashamed.

They should. I agree.

I think you could have qualified this a little though – all of them, R and D alike, are putting politics ahead of the lives of our troops right now. IMO Democrats have pretty much decided to drag this out because they think they’ll pick up more Senate seats. Filibuster? Spending bills are not subject to filibuster. They passed the money bills, while putting up token bills that are either non-binding or bills they fully know will be vetoed but make them look like they are trying. Then we have the theatrics this past week.

After all, if Iraq was mostly over and done with by this time next year what would they really have for an election issue? Republicans are disgusting; Democrats are possibly slightly less disgusting?

Harry Reid: "we're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war".

Note: I know you have plenty of contempt for Democrats on this as well. Just saying you could have balanced this post a little.

OCSteve: I really don't think so at all. I think that a lot of them are trying to figure out some way of actually being sure that the troops get what they need while also ending the war. Normally, this would not be hard. With this President, it really is.

I could have balanced the post, but honestly: all I know about most of the Democrats is that they have very few options, and it's not clear that Bush would not use the ones they have to harm the troops -- I mean, I honestly would not put it past him to strand people in Iraq, without basic supplies, needlessly -- and they are trying to find a way to do this. I do not have people who talk to them coming up and saying:

Two words Mitch McConnell.

I think you could have qualified this a little though – all of them, R and D alike, are putting politics ahead of the lives of our troops right now.
Honestly, I find this line of thinking silly. The political pressure that's on Republicans right now is why they want to break with the President, not the reason why they can't. Nothing has changed since 2006, save "more of the same." Had the Republicans kept their majority and the cognitive dissonance rolled merrily along, there would be no talk of defection.

Now, those same Republicans complain that the highly 'partisan' atmosphere -- the one they helped to build with six years of politicking and marginalization of the opposition party -- that's what keeps them from doing what they believe to be right.

After all, if Iraq was mostly over and done with by this time next year what would they really have for an election issue? Republicans are disgusting; Democrats are possibly slightly less disgusting?
Wow. if it weren't for those obstructing Democrats, the war would be over! You heard it here first, folks.

OCSteve: I should also say: I meant this to apply to those Republicans with doubts, not all Republican senators. I suspect McCain is not one of the people telling Brooks he'd be breaking with the President but for Harry Reid; if he's voting his conscience, none of this applies to him.

I call BS. Republican senators are looking for any way to not take a hard vote. They don't want to break with the Republican Party and they don't really know what impact an adverse vote might mean in terms of facing a primary challenge.

So they leak to a dimwit like Brooks that the reason they won't vote against the war is due to Reid's personality. Brooks then trots off to the nearest outlet he can find and blames the ongoing war on the Democrats.

Note that Brooks couldn't get anyone on the record.

Also note that the story is not falsifiable. We can never know the sum total of factors affecting any Senator's vote, but this kind of secret legislative intent cannot be disproved.

So another week goes by and another story goes out which blames Democrats for continuing the war. Mission Accomplished indeed.

Hilzoy: Noted. I know you have issues with Democrats as well from other posts. But when it comes to the politics of this thing both sides are truly playing games with people’s lives IMO.


Jeff: Wow. if it weren't for those obstructing Democrats, the war would be over! You heard it here first, folks

So you are comfortable that Democrats have truly done all they can? They honestly would have wrapped this up by now if not for those darned obstructionist Republicans?

After all, if Iraq was mostly over and done with by this time next year what would they really have for an election issue? Republicans are disgusting; Democrats are possibly slightly less disgusting?

How about absolute contempt for the rule of law? Hell, given what happened with Mark Foley, they could almost run on sex scandals alone and win in 2008.

this is just more posturing. nobody's sad or put out. they're just throwing out lame excuses to explain why they won't do what their constituents want them to do - i just can't!!. and if their excuses make it sound like it's the Dems' fault... even better. ...because Harry Reid won't let me! [if only the R had the majority.. hinthint]

The Democrats don't have the votes to defund the war. They've brought it up for a vote, it hasn't gotten anywhere. I guess they don't want to hear Republicans demagogue the concept of defunding from now until Judgment Day.

Are there a few Dems who could show more political courage on this? Absolutely. But that's a far cry from saying that they're intentionally keeping the war going for political gain.

I agree with OCSteve that some (not all) Democrats are almost hoping this keeps going to the elections and thus are playing politics.

And for those who are, I feel a great deal of contempt.

However, I believe most do want to bring closure to this thing, knowing that even if they started passing (with Bush signing) legislation with timetables, etal, that there will still be trrops in Iraq come next November.

OTOH, the Dems have a lot more than Iraq to run on next year. The Republican Party (not the mainstream Republicans) have shown themselves morally bankrupt over the past decade at least, with no regard for the opinion not only of mainstream Americans, but also mainstream Republicans.

The current power grab by the President, unprecedented in our history, has been abetted by almost every Republican in Congress. It would take a totally incompetent campaign by most Dems next year not to encrease majorities in both houses and win the Oval Office.

Dems, incompetency, mmmm, maybe there is a potential problem here.

And no, the Dems would not have wrapped it up by now without the obstructionist Republicans, primarily because of the CIC that we have.

I agree with Francis. Blaming Reid is just an excuse, and these Republicans would be doing nothing regardless. But the amazing thing, as Hilzoy points out, is that they're willing to embrace an excuse that so revoltingly immoral -- sacrificing lives out of personal pique.

OCSteve: I think you could have qualified this a little though – all of them, R and D alike, are putting politics ahead of the lives of our troops right now.

OCS, I am among those Democrats who feel that, to put it mildly, Dems have not done all they could do. There have been numerous occasions on which the Dem leadership has arranged votes designed more to highlight the differences between the parties on the war than to end it -- and this recent all-nighter falls into that category.

But Rs are the ones making it impossible to force Bush's hand.

And Rs are most fundamentally putting politics ahead of the lives of the troops right now, with the best example being their refusal to allow a vote on Webb's rest/readiness amendment.

Webb's amendment would not only certainly have gotten a straight majority; in fact, if Rs had not defeated the cloture motion and been faced with a vote, I bet it would have gotten veto-proof numbers of Senate votes.

Nell, your last sentence is very important. One of the reasons that the Republicans are avoiding votes is that they will then be on record, something that can be used against them in future elections.

If they vote one way, they may well upset the base. If they vote the other way, they will upset the majority of voters. By avoiding the vote, there is no record of what their real positions are, thus they can say whatever they want in a campaign without it coming back to bite them in the a--.

I also agree with you about the Dems. I think this last week there should have been a real filibuster. If there weren't enough votes for cloture, then keep on debating it ad infinitum. As Sebastion put it in another thread, Bush has never really had to deal with the reality of being called on his idiocy, and neither have the Republicans in Congress.

I think this last week there should have been a real filibuster.

the fact that there wasn't is completely baffling (outside my conviction that the Dems are just cowardly idiots). it's yet another powerful tool that Dems refuse to use. i hate to say this, but the fact that they won't use the established, legal, tools they have available to them in this fight makes me doubt that they have the skills required to govern.

Harry won't let us.

Personally I finds it a waste of time to even bother repudiating anything that irrelevent Brooks spins on, since he is in the same category as Krystal, that of being wrong on every prediction made

IMO Democrats have pretty much decided to drag this out because they think they’ll pick up more Senate seats. Filibuster? Spending bills are not subject to filibuster. They passed the money bills, while putting up token bills that are either non-binding or bills they fully know will be vetoed but make them look like they are trying. Then we have the theatrics this past week.

OCSteve, can you provide any evidence for these opinions? More specifically, can you explain to me what set of actions the Democrats could have performed that would 1. end the war and 2. not lead to many many casualties?


After all, if Iraq was mostly over and done with by this time next year what would they really have for an election issue?

I know some people who need to believe that Democrats can stop this war anytime they want, and that therefore, the fact that the war continues is their fault. Most people do not want to accept the notion that the American system of government is so flawed, so broken, that a war as pointless and hated as this one can drag on indefinitely.


Harry Reid: "we're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war".

Me: "I'm going to pick up lots of money when some family members die".

A sane person would look at that statement and NOT conclude that I hate my family and want them to die and plan on doing everything I can to make them sicker and more likely to die.

I'm sorry, but after all this time, haven't we gotten past the "statements of observable causality are not statements of intent or desire" fallacy yet? Apparently not.

Is "Krystal" Bill Kristol's cheerleader name?

BTW Hilzoy: You are obviously under no obligation to balance your posts. I think I mentioned it only because this last week was what it was. I too felt that they should have forced a real filibuster.

And I’m not sure what I want them to do, I just know that this ain’t it.

As Nell and John mentioned, I think at a minimum they need to start forcing everyone to go on record.

As Nell and John mentioned, I think at a minimum they need to start forcing everyone to go on record.

Well, they need sixty votes to accomplish that. The don't have them.

IMO Democrats have pretty much decided to drag this out because they think they’ll pick up more Senate seats.

So, it's the Democrats who're dragging this out?

Republicans really want to end the war but they can't because Democrats won't let them?

In my opinion your opinion ranks right up there with David Brooks. You are posting as a GOP shill, with no shred of honest, internal logic, integrity, or simple human compassion.

I don't intend this as a criticism, but as an observation, like you could look at a black widow spider and say "That's a black widow spider" or call a shark a shark. No implication that black widow spiders, sharks, or soulless GOP shills should be something other than they are.

IMO Democrats have pretty much decided to drag this out because they think they’ll pick up more Senate seats.

So, it's the Democrats who're dragging this out?

Republicans really want to end the war but they can't because Democrats won't let them?

In my opinion your opinion ranks right up there with David Brooks. You are posting as a GOP shill, with no shred of honest, internal logic, integrity, or simple human compassion.

I don't intend this as a criticism, but as an observation, like you could look at a black widow spider and say "That's a black widow spider" or call a shark a shark. No implication that black widow spiders, sharks, or soulless GOP shills should be something other than they are.

J Thomas, I think you are totally misinterpreting OCSteve's comment. He has never at any time indicated that the republicans are being prevented from ending the war because the Dems want to drag it out.

He believes, as do many Democrats, that they can be more forceful and aggressive on this but that for some reason they aren't.

He tends to think that this is because they see the Iraq War (or occupation) as being a winning ticket for the Dems next year.

As I stated before, there may well be some Dems that do see it that way.

OTOH, it is questionable that being more aggressive would make a difference in the actual situation in Iraq.

OCSteve is anything but a shill for the GOP as it is currently constituted.

DAvebo, they need 60 votes to end debate and move to a vote. They could keep debate open and not move onto anything else until a vote takes place. That may force republicans to agree to a vote.

Hilzoy:
For what it's worth, Brooks has a record of blaming the paralysis in Iraq on people who oppose the status quo. Greg Djerejian caught onto it a couple of weeks ago:

... this additional snippet from Brooks, in its guileful counter-intuitiveness, is worth a trip down memory lane too (from the Dec 15 '06 NewsHour):
So I think, when you look back on the lasting effect of the Iraq Study Group, I think it will have prolonged our presence in Iraq, because I think, after the election, people could have said, "The voters sent a message. Let's get out of Iraq." Then you had the likes of Republican Senator Gordon Smith saying, "I'm at the end of my rope." Without the Iraq Study Group, you could really kind of brought kind of momentum, "We're out of here." But the Iraq Study Group froze the debate for a month, and then said, you know, slow, gradual withdrawal. And so I think, perversely, the end effect was to keep us there longer. [emphasis added throughout]

Shorter Brooks: "We'd have ended this war if you'd quit asking us when we'll end it."

OCSteve, can you provide any evidence for these opinions?

Kind of tough to prove an opinion. ;)

In April when Bush vetoed the spending bill they had another bill with no timelines or restrictions of any kind ready for him before the ink from his veto pen was dry.

All that rhetoric leading up to that, then they caved. To me that indicates that they were not serious about it to begin with. Spending bills (that can’t be filibustered) are their only true means of forcing Bush’s hand, and they haven’t used it.

They go through the motions. They come up with non-binding resolutions. They submitted that spending bill knowing full well it would be vetoed and that they didn’t have the votes to override. So it looked good to their supporters. And they followed that up with absolutely nothing.

So that leaves me with the opinion that they are not serious, that they are trying to please their base by going through the motions while at the same time changing absolutely nothing.

They know as well as anyone else what a bloodbath it is going to be when we withdraw and they won’t chance having that hung around their neck before the next election.

John Miller, it looks to me like the democrats could be more aggressive and win more votes next year, but still not have any effect on the occupation.

So being less aggressive is hurting their chance at partisan politics, but not hurting their chance to bring the troops home, which is pretty much nonexistent.

So how does OCSteve's shilling stand up?

The GOP is 100% (in votes, and in blocking botes) supporting Bush's intention to keep the occupation going into the indefinite future.

Democrats (who lack the votes to override the GOP obstruction, much less Bush's veto) cannot get the troops out before the elction, unless the GOP relents.

So how is this the Democrats' fault? How is it they're intentionally dragging out the war for political advantage?

Any 11 (or 17) GOP senators could stand up and vote to bring the troops home, and it would happen. They haven't done that, they haven't come close. How is that the fault of Democrats?

but as all the kids like saying, reid's polarization strategy is a feature not a bug. the goal is to, frankly, maximize political pressure by creating a clear choice.

now, again, in normal circumstances, this might seem like putting politics ahead of war. but, the gop (i believe) simply will not force a change. even in this late hour, the most extreme bills would require him to draw up nonbinding plans.

i really don't have much sympathy. the warners and lugars of the world had their chance. it's become clear that the only way to stop this war is to get a new president and a more heavily democratic senate. reid's strategy may not be pretty, but that's what's it's doing. and they know it on some level -- that's why they're ocmplaining.

on a different level, i had approximately zero sympathy for the poor republican senators whining about excessive polarization. i heard them say nothing in 2002, 2004, and 2006.

J Thomas : In my opinion your opinion ranks right up there with David Brooks. You are posting as a GOP shill, with no shred of honest, internal logic, integrity, or simple human compassion.

You don’t know me from Adam. Frankly I don’t care what your opinion of me is, but if it felt better to get that out then I’m happy to be of service.

FWIW I am no longer a member of the Republican Party.

If OCSteve is a GOP shill, Karl Rove should demand an immediate refund of all fees paid to him.

And as an unaffiliated voter I get to gripe about both parties. Nothing I’ve said in this thread absolves the Republicans of anything.

Republicans, myself included (at the time), are responsible for getting us for getting us into this mess. Democrats claim they were put in power to get us out of it. So far not so much, huh?

You are posting as a GOP shill, with no shred of honest, internal logic, integrity, or simple human compassion.

wow. that's totally un-called-for, and utterly absurd. ten minutes reading what OCSteve has previously written here should make it patently obvious to even the most-dense of readers that he's anything but a GOP shill.

frankly, it's so ludicrous that it's practically a posting violation.

Before I head out for the day, I just want to make two quick points:

1. J Thomas, you're way off base regarding OCSteve. He may be a lot of things, but he is no GOP shill. He's demonstrated more than enough integrity in past discussions to deserve better than what you're saying about him.


2. OCSteve, I think part of the democrats' problem is that they have to think about the long game. You imply that politics is irrelevant, but the truth is, winning seats in 08 is not a certainty. If the US faces another terrorist attack (even a relatively small one), public opinion can turn on a dime, making 08 an electoral bloodbath but not for republicans. With enough attacks, the issue will be keeping enough senators to block President InsaneWarLover (R)'s brilliant plan to nuke a few million people in retaliation.

If the democrats block a war funding bill, another attack on US soil will politically destroy them.

You and I might think that the probability of that happening is low, but it is certainly possible, and it is their job to deal with such possibilities.

The political mood in this country will change dramatically if Bush gets to climb another pile of rubble with a bullhorn. We simply cannot ignore that possibility.

Finally, could you explain why you think troops won't be harmed if the democrats fillibuster a war funding bill? Do you think Bush will back down? Beyond the politics of it, how do you think pulling funding won't lead to loss of lives?

J Thomas: "In my opinion your opinion ranks right up there with David Brooks. You are posting as a GOP shill, with no shred of honest, internal logic, integrity, or simple human compassion."

This is a violation of the posting rules, which forbid vilifying other commenters. I'm banning you for 24 hours. If you feel this is unfair, feel free to email us and say why.

That it's a violation of the posting rules is independent of the fact that it is also, as other commenters have pointed out, completely false.

Turbulence: I take your points. And I do understand that political considerations can’t be separated out from the rest. But if we have decided that this thing is over, and it seems that we have, then more troops dying while both parties worry about gaining or losing seats in 08 just infuriates me.

And I have no doubts that Republicans will hang all that they can on Democrats no matter what they do. It really is a no win situation for Democrats, and I do feel sorry for them in that regard. Cut funding? You’re abandoning the troops in the field. Force a pullout that is immediately followed by genocide in Iraq? Republicans will tar them with that as well.

I really don’t have the answers. And I can’t even say with certainty what I think is right from one day to the next.

But if this thing is really over, then the only responsible thing to do is fund nothing but a safe withdrawal. Of course the troops get everything that they need for force protection to accomplish a safe (as can be) withdrawal. But that’s it. No money for anything else.

OCSteve: I think part of the problem for the Democrats is that they are not united about what to do. Some are quite clear that we need to withdraw. Some seem to me still to be tempted by that state in which in your heart you know it's over, but you can't quite bring yourself to do what it takes to end it. (Familiar from bad relationships.) Some are hoping against hope for some solution to appear by magic. Some, I suspect, genuinely do not believe that it's completely lost.

That makes even the attempt to corral the Democrats into something like a unified position quite difficult -- although not as bad as in the House, where Pelosi also has to consider the block of Democrats who don't want to support any more funding for anything but a withdrawal, period, and will vote against any proposal that does.

But, frankly, this isn't in the same league as blaming your vote on this question on being mad at Harry Reid. I mean, calling that a junior high sort of move is an insult to early adolescence (and if your early adolescence was anything like mine, being too critical of it is hard to do.)

I suspect, as others have said, that it's not really Harry Reid; what they wanted was some toothless gesture of independence that would allow them to say that they had broken with the President without having to, you know, actually do anything to get the troops home. Personally, I don't find this much of an improvement, though.

Hilzoy: Please don’t ban him on my account. I’ve been called worse (this week I think). I think the warning will be enough.

OCSteve: "no shred of honest, internal logic, integrity, or simple human compassion" -- ?? I'll unban him after 24 hours. But I think that's just out of line.

I'm also with francis and KCinDC. Brooks is just making crap up in order to fit the "anything bad is the Democrats fault" storyline.

It's definitely hard to get members of Congress to really unite around a proposal for ending the occupation, because any proposal will almost certainly lead to disaster. Bush has put us into a position where all roads lead to disaster, and our only option is to select the one that's the least disastrous. Getting people to enthusiastic embrace the least bad disaster, and stake their political careers (and thus the possibility of their doing any good legistlatively in the future in various areas) on it, is a tall order.

Frank, I don't think Brooks is making up the Republicans using Reid as an excuse. That's the sort of spinelessness I'd expect from the specterers. He is, of course, using that to build on an "anything bad is the Democrats fault" storyline.

Maybe David Brooks is writing Washington Post editorials now.

That makes even the attempt to corral the Democrats into something like a unified position quite difficult -- although not as bad as in the House, where Pelosi also has to consider the block of Democrats who don't want to support any more funding for anything but a withdrawal, period, and will vote against any proposal that does.

True. But at least it’s possible for her to get the votes and she doesn’t have to deal with filibusters. I still see most of the problem being in the Senate I think.

Speaking of that, anyone hear anything about Tim Johnson? Last I heard his doctor said he would be able to resume his full duties in the Senate. I’m sure that Reid could use his vote…

According to Larry Sabato, Johnson isn't expected back until September.

The problem with strategizing now is that there's not going to be any turnover in the Senate until January 2009. Even when Tin Johnson returns, that's only one more vote for the Dems; they need seven.

That number isn't going to change. (Vitter, for example, is hanging on, rather than resign and let Louisiana's Democratic governor appoint a replacement.)

Since there will always, for the remainder of this session, be enough GOP votes to prevent cloture, I'm not sure what Reid can do.

CaseyL, I don't understand where you're fixed "seven" comes from. You're assuming the current set of Republican "defectors" can't expand (or contract) under any circumstances?

Wow, that WaPo editorial (KCinDC link)is a load of stinking &%$@*.

The impasse is the natural result of a huge and sincere policy difference between the two parties -- either withdrawal or not. Republicans are against any form of withdrawal (except the phony advisory plans) despite huge majorities in the country favoring it -- only their hard core base still supports the position, which is a losing electoral hand in 2008. They know this -- hence this baloney out of Brooks and the WaPo trying to posture this as something different.

In other words, Republicans would just like the issue to go away and not bother them so that they can pretend that they are not standing strongly against majority opinion on the subject -- that is the irresponsible and disingenuous position.

There is no bipartisan solution to this problem. It is either stay the course with Bush (dressed up as the Surge) or a withdrawal plan, and Republicans remain firm in supporting Bush despite their occasional whimpering to the contrary.

So that Mean Harry Reid makes the division clear, instead of watering it down to suit Republicans in a quandry. Too bad. Watering it down means going along with the Bush plan -- that is the stark reality. There is no bipartisan path with Bush at the helm and the Senate Republicans obeying White House directives. (And Gen Petraeus appearing on Hugh Hewitt's show to talk up his plan -- talk about blatant politicking for Bush by a general -- the content of his report will be a highly partisan document).

How can anyone credibly find that Dems are just showboating for political gain (OCSteve, for example)? Their core principle is for withdrawal, and they are standing by it with no means to force it without Republican assistance. The Republicans are united in blocking it in every way possible. How is it that Dems are prolonging an impasse? The impasse is the natural result of two things: 1) diametrically opposed positions; and 2) Senate rules that permit the minority to obstruct any progress.

The Dems could be more aggressive, but it would not change anything. Defunding was not an option because Bush burn down the house while still in it rather than compromise. I would like to see Reid being more aggressive, but I have no serious problem with the current course.

Elections are the primary method for resolving such impasses by reshuffling the elected representatives consistent with majority opinion in the populace. Republicans have hitched their wagon to a submarine called the George W. Bush -- it is the job of Democrats to pound them for their gross disservice to the country in putting such loyalty above all common sense.

Dmbeaster: How can anyone credibly find that Dems are just showboating for political gain (OCSteve, for example)?

Because they haven’t shown me anything else? Help me out here. What have they actually done?

OCSteve: Please don’t ban him on my account.

Dude, it's not about you. It's about rule of law ;-)

KCinDC: Getting people to enthusiastic embrace the least bad disaster, and stake their political careers (and thus the possibility of their doing any good legistlatively in the future in various areas) on it, is a tall order.

I personally don't think Dems are "doing all they can", but I have to admit that it's a thorny question, and this is the pithiest observation I've seen about it. I don't know whether it works as a defense exactly, but it certainly goes straight to the heart of the problem.

Because they haven’t shown me anything else? Help me out here. What have they actually done?

What can they do? They don't have enough votes for cloture, and the GOP is filibustering everything that even hints at possibly maybe making Bush sorta think about withdrawal.

Everything. Period. Nothing is getting through unless the GOP lets it, and the ONLY Iraq-related bills the GOP is letting through are completely toothless, so that Golden Boy doesn't even have to wet his veto pen. heck, they can't even get lobbying reform through (passed 96-2 in the Senate) because the GOP is playing silly buggers about the conference committee.

What would you have them do? Zero out funding for the war -- they CAN do that, I agree. Part of me thinks they should -- but I know why they're not. Partly political -- can you imagine the field day the media would have with that? Democrats would be slaughtered. And even if they stood firm, managed to hold everyone together -- can you guarantee Bush would cave? Because I can't. I can see him sucking funds from everywhere to keep them there, whether legal or not. I can see him keeping them there and not paying bills. And the Democrats would take the blame every step of the way.

It'd be a game of chicken, and one the Democrats could not win. There's no cost to Bush personally to holding firm. He's a lame-duck. He can't be pressured. He doesn't care about popular opinion. Hell, if you take the man at his word he thinks Iraqi is a holy mission given to him by God for Pete's sake.

So would you have them zero-fund the war? Do you honestly think it would work? I don't -- because the Democrats would have to blink.

Force the GOP to actually filibuster? Reid did something just as good, without taking up as much time -- this whole political theater of last week was set up to deny GOP Senators a chance to proffer a fake vote against the war. The GOP wanted to vote for -- and allow to pass -- a series of utterly toothless amendments that would let them claim to have voted to end the war, but expressly unsure Bush was under no pressure to actually do so.

Reid wouldn't give them that.

So what is it, exactly, you want them to do? Because I frankly don't get you. The GOP is blocking everything in the Senate, and yet people are blaming the Democrats? What sort of bizarro-logic is that?

OCSteve:

What have they done?

Proposed bills numerous times calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. All of them have been filibustered in the Senate, or for the one appropriations bill, vetoed by Bush with no prospect for an override.

Why you think that is showboating is beyond me. Why you think that is not doing anything is beyond me. Proposing legislation that changes policy is basically the ONLY thing that the Democratic Congress can do to change things, and they are doing it with vigor.

They could be more confrontational, but in terms of results, it is unlikely to change anything. It is impossible to claim that the Democrats are prolonging our tenure in Iraq, and allegedly doing so for political gain, when they are the only voice trying to shorten that tenure. To the extent this gives them a political issue to exploit, it is because the Republicans refuse to agree on anything that would change the current "Stay the Course/Surge" policy. And the only reason it is an issue to exploit is because the Republicans stand by that policy even though it runs against the desires of a large majority of the public.

Describe for me what the Democrats could do so that the issue is resolved and the war shortened. The only tool is not passing a funding bill, which is like proposing a game of Russian Roulette with a madman. And politically, the Republicans have been successful in portraying that posture as irresponsible.

So long as the Republicans continue to support the Bush policy, the only remedy to break the log jam is the 2008 election. And naturally the biggest issue in that election is the Republican refusal to end this war, which the Democrats should exploit in spades. That is not showboating -- it is democracy at its most fundamental.

I agree that Dems cannot pass meaningful legislation as things are. And I agree that the purpose of the mini-filibuster was to outflank GOP VINO (vertebrate in name only) attempts to play both ends against the middle.

But I do not agree that the Dem choices are limited to passing legislation or engaging in holding actions.

Reid did something just as good, without taking up as much time

Here, for example, we differ. I submit that it was nowhere near as good. Yes, it prevented the GOP from playing out their preferred kabuki, but I'm pretty sure that could have been prevented without any theatrics at all.

Legislatively it was a holding action. Politically it was a holding action. Theatrically it was pretty much a flop.

Theatrically it was pretty much a flop.

As was noted on the Obstruction: Update thread, the Senate cannot do any other business when a filibuster is in progress. Nothing: no confirmations, no budget votes, no votes on any other bills, no hearings, nada.

I wonder what would happen if, the next time an Iraq-related bill comes up, Reid simply kept the filibuster going, and going, and going. For days. Weeks.

The GOP and the MSM would definitely complain that "Democrats are preventing the Senate from doing its job."

Bush would make speeches about all the important things that Democrats are refusing to work on. So would the GOP Presidential candidates. So would wingnut organizations.

The Democrats could say, and keep saying, that the Iraq war is the most important issue facing the nation. They could say, and keep saying, that the country wants the troops to come home, wants the war to end. They could say, and keep saying, that Bush refuses to listen to the citizenry, and so do the Senate Republicans. They could say, and keep saying, that regular Senate business will resume once the bill (to plan a withdrawal, begin a withdrawal, impose timelines for a withdrawal) gets its "upperdown" vote.

The question is whether that message will get through, or only the GOP's message.

One of the problems here is that over the years certain terms, none of which have any actual legitimacy, have come to be associated so closely with Democrats that the mention of one automatically triggers thinking of the other.

Included in these are "weak on defense", "tax and spend" and "obstructionistic."

Bush would make speeches about all the important things that Democrats are refusing to work on.

Ooh, that'll really turn the GOP's fortunes around.

Seriously, what important things is he going to talk about? Health care? Economics? Immigration? Education? Social Security? Disaster preparedness? Mars exploration? I give the Dems plenty of credit for trying to unwind some (not all of course) of the damage done under GOP rule, and I understand that they're in a tough situation, but jeez. I've heard that fortune favors the bold as well as the prudent.

I agree with OCSteve that the Dems haven't done nearly as much as they "could" have. Part of the problem, of course, is to find a tactic that would actually help but even so they did cave very easily after the first veto. My suggestion was and remains to put up a series of *different* war-ending bills - one with deployment restrictitions, one with timelines, once with toothed benchmarks, one re-assigning the troops to Afghanistan, etc. Bush could probably veto all that too; but by the end he would clearly be established as the bad guy. That maximizes the pressure on the secretly anti-war GOP Senators to break with Bush, which is the only way we're going to end this war before 2009.

Now as to why the Dems didn't pursue this (or any other) strategy to push things on OCSteve and I will probably have to agree to disagree. He thinks it's Machiavellian intent on the Dems part. IMO that's implausible for Pelosi although not for Reid. I, however, think it's the wobbly Dems. Nelson-NE and Pryor made it clear they did *not* support the withdrawal bill - Nelson doesn't want withdrawal and Pryor thinks there cannot be a public timeline. They presumably went along because of backroom pressure (simarily to Warner, Voinovich, Collins, and Snowe, at least, on the other side). This is obviously something we can't resolve, because we can't read the minds of Reid, Nelson, and Pryor. I wouldn't be surprised if even most Dem Senators don't know what happened in the cloakroom.

Radish: You're forgetting the endgame. The Republicans filibuster for days and days. Republicans and Bush complain about all the business the Democrats aren't doing (they are trying out the "Do-nothing Congress" meme).

Finally, the Republicans cannot sustain the filibuster anymore. The measure passes.

Bush vetoes it. And everyone asks "What the hell was all that time and effort for? Nothing. It was a waste of time. How freakin' stupid/useless/wastes of space are those Democrats to force a filibuster when they knew Bush would veto it? God they're so stupid they really can't get anything done".

Forcing a real filibuster does nothing except as political theater, since Bush will either veto (or ignore) whatever gets passed. If it's going to be political theater, you might as well wait for the best time.

My suggestion was and remains to put up a series of *different* war-ending bills - one with deployment restrictitions, one with timelines, once with toothed benchmarks, one re-assigning the troops to Afghanistan, etc.

Congratulations, Curt. You have just 'speculated' the exact nature of the Democrat's plans. That's what they're doing. They keep throwing out amendment after amendment designed to force Bush to draw down one way or the other. One was a mandate, one was to establish goals, one was tied to troop readiness, one tied to Iraqi progress....

Each one died in the Senate when the GOP filibustered it. Bush hasn't had to veto it.

So since the Democrats are doing exactly what you say they should be doing, what's left to complain about?

CaseyL: I wonder what would happen if, the next time an Iraq-related bill comes up, Reid simply kept the filibuster going, and going, and going. For days. Weeks.

WTF are you talking about? The Republicans would be the ones who'd have to keep the filibuster going. It's language like that that keeps the terms of discussion stacked in the Rs' favor.

And I applaud OCSteve's comments, particularly the one at 12:13 pm, which achieves a brutal honesty that gets tougher for Democrats the closer the 2008 elections loom.

@Morat20: You needn't be so snarky with Curt.

When I made the exact same proposal back in May, I meant that they should come back with the different amendments on the supplemental appropriation -- right away, not two months later. Curt can speak for himself about whether that's what he had in mind as well.

I still view the May cave-in as cowardly, preemptive cringing about "playing chicken with the troops". There's another view that the two-month layoff was wise and moderate and responsible, giving more time for the publi to become even more convinced that we've got to start to go.

They could be more confrontational, but in terms of results, it is unlikely to change anything.

Not if you're talking about political rather than legislative results. Whining about the Republicans blocking virtually every productive piece of legislation leads to a demoralized base and unsatisfied independents. Being more confrontational fires up the public support that's out there, if it's well-planned and organized.

Bush vetoes it. And everyone asks "What the hell was all that time and effort for? Nothing.

Really? Color me skeptical. I think you may be underestimating how unpopular this war, and this president, are. When Bush vetoes everybody's back where they started legislatively, but theatrically Dems have attacked instead of defending. And frankly, the people who shrug their shoulders at that point are not the target audience.

At some point congress is going to have to **** or get off the pot. I say better sooner than later. Remember how Dem approval ratings slid after they caved on funding? Far more so than the independents, the people who got pissed off were the very people whose enthusiasm will--or won't--make it possible for Dems to consolidate their control of Congress in 2008.

Now I respect both Reid and Pelosi a whole lot, but that's just plain bad politics. If they were doing it purely as a matter of principle I'd happily cut them some slack. But I see no evidence that that's the case.

""DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I'll just tell you that, in private conversations months ago, Republican senators, senior Republican senators were anxious to move away from the White House, to move towards some sort of withdrawal. Now they're not talking that way. They're talking, "We've got to stick with the president." And why? Two words: Harry Reid."

Oh right. Those Republicans were all set to reign in the President, to pass legislation with real teath in it that would have brought about withdrawal, if only it weren't for Reid. Yeah, sure. Give me a break.

--Rick Taylor

If you are a Senator, job one is, with few exceptions, to get reelected. Timing is everything here for the Republicans up in 2008. Abandon Bush too soon and you face a primary fight with a candidate who forces you to run to the right and possibly costs you the general election. Arguably, this type of primary is what cost the Republicans the governor's seat in Colorado in 2006. Abandon Bush too late and he is the albatross around your neck. You need the surge in Middle East violence that could result from a withdrawal to happen after the 2008 election -- so you don't want to force Bush's hand too soon.

I expect the votes to start shifting in the Sep-Oct time frame, and veto-proof numbers by Mar-Apr.

WTF are you talking about? The Republicans would be the ones who'd have to keep the filibuster going. It's language like that that keeps the terms of discussion stacked in the Rs' favor.

No, you're confusing an actual filibuster with a make-believe one.

The Republicans would like to have an effortless, bloodless 'gentlemens' agreement' in which the bill never comes to the floor and there's no debate.. Reid knows he doesn't have the 60 votes to end debate. What he did was say, in effect: "Very well, but no more gentlemens' agreement. If you want to block cloture, we'll debate the issue for 24 hours."

What I'm suggesting is, doing the same thing, only this time, the debate lasts, not just 24 hours, but until the cows come home.

I don't think I'm confused about the difference between a real filibuster and what we saw this week, but it's possible that CaseyL in his/her comment and I are referring to two different phenomena.

A real filibuster happens when one side of an issue initiates it while one of their faction has the floor in debate on a bill. To avoid the entire business of the Senate being consumed with this debate, the other side is forced to call for a cloture vote. If the vote falls short of 60, the pro-legislation side can either withdraw the bill the other side is threatening to filibuster, or the filibuster begins in earnest. Up until now, Reid has withdrawn the bills that faced this Republican obstruction -- at least 20 times.

In the scenario people are calling for, making the Republicans actually filibuster a measure like Webb's rest/regular deployment bill, it would be a Republican filibuster. They would have to hold the floor until either a cloture vote gathers 60 supporters -- allowing an up-or-down vote on the bill -- or the pro-bill side gives in and withdraws the bill.

What Reid organized this week was not a filibuster. It was a debate like most others with the exception of the hours allotted to it: equal time for both sides, periodic quorum calls, etc.

Is "Krystal" Bill Kristol's cheerleader name?

Actually, I think it's his "gangsta" tag. All those guys have one.

a lot of Republicans would like to peel off from the president, but they feel that Harry Reid is making it impossible.

Yes, he is a superman, that Harry Reid. Somehow he's magically increased the magnetic force of George Bush to such a degree that the poor Republican Senators cannot pry themselves free from its sinister attraction. Damn him to hell!

Regarding Brooks:

IMO, the professional opinion makers have come to a difficult place. We have sh*t the bed so badly, so thoroughly, and for such a long time in Iraq that there is, really, nothing much for anyone to say about it anymore. "We're very, very sorry" might work, but noone seems to want to say that, exactly.

Professional opinion makers, however, still have to write their columns. It's what they do, and they have mortgages and kids to send to school just like the rest of us. So, they have to come up with something that makes it sound like they have some unique, original insight to share with us.

What I'd really like is if the major "papers of record" and other organs of received wisdom would simply run a standard statement in place of their editorial pages:

"We're very sorry, but we can no longer think of anything constructive to say about the current situation in Iraq."

I'd give them points for candor.

Thanks -

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Whatnot


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