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April 10, 2007

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And of course you mean "interesting" in the sense of "interesting"

In that case, he might get himself into real trouble here. Eventually, the American people will catch on to the fact that the Congress has, in fact, voted appropriations bills, and will send them to the President.

What if the mainstream media keep reporting this as "Congress blocks troop funds" though? "Eventually", yes: but "eventually" can mean, well, a long time.

Of course, a quick skim of the Boston Metro last night made it sound like Carl Levin is planning to roll over and just give it up with an, "Oh, well. Fine. But I promise it won't be quite so easy next year!" (I just poked around for a link, and that's basically what he said.)

Err... No. It doesn't matter how hard you "insist" that the President be accountable. You have to do something with teeth.

It's not like this is some dramatically unpopular strategy. To suggest that the American people will hold Congress to task for not "supporting the troops" is ludicrous. The American people want our soldiers to come home. They want a deadline for withdrawal.

Carl Levin is a fucking coward. Sadly, I think there are too many other Democrats just as cowardly.

"I think it's possible that he genuinely doesn't understand that the Congress has the right to pass an appropriations bill that he doesn't like, and that when they do so, he doesn't just get to send them back to repeat the exercise until they get it right."

Sure he does unless there are enough votes to override a veto.

The way Bush sees it, he vetoes and the Democrats are screwed because they can't override the veto. And (Bush thinks) they wouldn't dare give him a second funding bill with similar restrictions attached. So (Bush thinks) since it's obvious all he has to do is wait them out, and they *know* this is obvious (Bush thinks), the Democrats will cave.

Bush assumes the Democrats will be blamed for any standoff. The media has played along with that game for six years, and the "Gingrich walked off the plane so the Republicans got trounced" idea is fixed in his head. Never mind the differences now.

Bush also assumes the Republicans won't cave even if the pressure to do so begins. And he assumes (I assume) that the Democrats are sissies and can't stand up to the powerful exudations of his manly musk.

I think that *he* thinks he's holding every single card. Which is why he's acting this way.

But the DOJ and related hearings are going to chip away at him while the standoff continues. And when the joint bill is passed and the Democrats announce "We've funded the troops!!" it's going to get very tricky for Bush to actually veto it.

It is indeed going to be "interesting"....

I think that *he* thinks he's holding every single card. Which is why he's acting this way.

right. or at least he thinks he holds enough of them that he's confident nobody is going to challenge him.

he's right.

I have never understood how Bush supporters can stand to listen to his peevish, condescending lecturing, in which he acts as if the only reason anyone could be disagreeing with him is that they just don't understand the situation. The fact that a personality cult developed around this guy is incomprehensible.

Sure he does unless there are enough votes to override a veto.

You think? Bush needs the bill more than the Democrats do. Democrats want out of Iraq, remember? Bush needs this in order to stay in.

Unfortunately it's a showdown between one man prone to completely unwarranted overconfidence -- a man who won't be running for reelection -- and scores of individual members of Congress, most of whom are worried about reelection, who will likely be continually undermined by the media, even if the majority of the public is on their side. It's going to be very difficult to get the Democrats to hold together.

"I have never understood how Bush supporters can stand to listen to his peevish, condescending lecturing, in which he acts as if the only reason anyone could be disagreeing with him is that they just don't understand the situation."

Because they heartily agree with him? (Or, at least, default to agreeing that whomever Bush is lecturing, they're bad (and almost surely are evil liberals), so Bush's lecturing is a pleasing reprimand of Those Awful People, and is eagerly presumed to be correct.)

I assume that Bush is trying to threaten Congress into abandoning this bill so that he doesn't have to veto it. It's pretty unseemly for the President to use his second veto in six years for an appropriation bill for troop funding, and I imagine that this is the last-ditch attempt to not to have to do so.

One more salient point.

The calculus of this negotiation runs thusly: Republicans will be pressured to abandon the President because of 1) unpopularity of the war, and 2) the heat generated by the congressional investigations. Democrats will be pressured to cave so as to not appear to be unsupportive of the troops.

So the game, on both sides, is to keep posturing and keep delaying to see where the pressure is worst, and gamble that it will all break their way.

But the traditional stance is one of "reasonableness" -- both sides keep options open and at least "appear" to be reasonable, so that when the final deal is cut, everyone walks out of the room smiling. The traditional political process is played so that the other side saves face (because it could be your side tomorrow).

But this is where President Bush differs (and some recent Republican leaders). He plays the game to not only win, but to humiliate his opponent. It's important to him that the other side lose face -- which is also why he can't allow himself to give in on anything.

He didn't take Negotiating 101 at Harvard.....

True, of course, Gary. My mystification stems less from their approval of the content than from the idea that anyone could find his delivery appealing.

Zmulls: Bush assumes the Democrats will be blamed for any standoff.

I think that is exactly what will happen. I don’t think he will have any problem vetoing or sustaining a veto. I almost think he relishes the showdown. He’ll give a speech (maybe prime time) about timelines and pork and Democrats not funding the troops.

It will take hold and Democrats will cave and send back a clean bill.

Note that I did not say this is my desired outcome, I said it is what I believe will occur.

I'm reminded of how, during the 2006 campaign, Republicans continued calling plays from the same old playbook that had served them so well ever since 9/11. "Democrats don't want to listen in on the terrorists." "Democrats think we should have left Saddam in power." And it didn't work, or even come close to working.

I think Bush has, sadly, learned nothing from the election results and is continuing to call the same old plays. I think the public is done with the war and they're happy Congress is, at long last, doing something towards the goal of ending it. And I don't think Bush is going to fool anyone who isn't already on his side with the old "Democrats don't support the troops" line.

If the Democrats end up giving Bush something along the lines he's looking for - say, a clean bill that funds the war for 3 months - it's going to be because someone has to do the responsible thing, not because they're afraid of Bush's bully pulpit or Cheney's attacks on their patriotism. They've already looked that one in the eye and stared it down.

"My mystification stems less from their approval of the content than from the idea that anyone could find his delivery appealing."

I find that prejudice tends to trump content. There's no shortage of people who are equally incredulous that anyone can tolerate the superficial traits and appearance of either Clinton, as we know.

But I'm being rational about something that's pretty purely emotional, either way, so that's probably unhelpful.

I'm so glad we have such a can-do CEO president.

Seriously, i suspect he thinks this is just like any other job Poppy got him, where everyone's obligated to kowtow and if they don't, he can just fire them.

He’ll give a speech (maybe prime time) about timelines and pork and Democrats not funding the troops.

Well, it would help on the PR front if the Democrats had actually seen fit to, you know, not include the pork. I'm pretty unreserved in my believe that the Dems are the lesser of the evils right now, but that doesn't mean I can really passionately get behind the lesser evil.

"Well, it would help on the PR front if the Democrats had actually seen fit to, you know, not include the pork."

While in abstract you're right, I think that this would be more relevant if the Republicans hadn't also loaded up their previous emergency appropriations bills for the wars with tons of similar pork, and equally delayed passing the bills for months.

In practice, the Democrats couldn't have passed the current bill when they did without the pork; given the previous Republican lock on Congress from 2000 to 2006, I'm unclear what their excuse is/was.

Yes, Democrats do seem to have the ability not to learn from all of the lessons of the past dozen years.

It's a funding bill for the occupation. Nothing else needs to be in it.

OCSteve: "I don’t think he will have any problem vetoing or sustaining a veto. I almost think he relishes the showdown."

The thing is, all a veto does is restore the status quo. In this case, the status quo is: no funding for the war. That's why the Democrats had to attach this to an appropriations bill: a timetable by itself can just be vetoed, and that's that. If an appropriations bill is vetoed, on the other hand, there is no funding. That has to pass. (For similar reasons, it's not vulnerable to filibuster: it can be filibustered like any other bill, I think, but the results would not be acceptable to anyone who wants funding to pass.)

"...but that doesn't mean I can really passionately get behind the lesser evil."

Also, while that's perfectly understandable, and I sympathize, we never ever, overall, get a choice of other than the lesser evil, in politics. It occurs from time to time, in passing moments, but that's all.

Living life without acknowledgement of this would be very much letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and then Voltaire's ghost will come beat you up.

hilzoy, IIRC appropriations bills can't be fillibustered. Which, of course, has led to putting all sorts of stuff in 'appropriations' bills, but that's another story, for another day.

In terms of 'president not facing re-election' vs 'congressmen facing re-election', it wouldn't surprise me if the deciding factor is the GOP congressmen. There have got to be a lot of them not relishing running in '08, with the Iraq war in the middle of Year 5.

Severely OT, but hilzoy, if you're taking requests, I'd like to see your take as an ethicist on this piece of poorly-reasoned silliness from Sam Brownback.

I haven't read all the comments yet, but I am remembering Nixon's impoundment and realizing we don't have the SCOTUS that rebuked him. Cheney was around then.

Conversation:

Bush:Give me what I want or I will take the money out of FICA taxes and the EPA."

Dems:"Mr President, that is illegal, and we will sue and impeach you."

Republicans in the Oval Office:"Uhh, no we won't."

Which Republicans has Bush invited to the bipartisan meeting?

Now I would have to look up the original impoundment case, which was all domestic I think, and look at the law that was passed afterwards.

But I certainly can imagine that this SCOTUS might say that in time of war, for military emergency or immediate need, the CinC can find the necessary funds wherever he has to.

That would be a precedent Pelosi & Reid would find most uncomfortable.

But I certainly can imagine that this SCOTUS might say that in time of war, for military emergency or immediate need, the CinC can find the necessary funds wherever he has to.

But Congress did vote him the funds.

He has the money.

He also has timelines for withdrawing troops - that's the part he doesn't want to deal with.

He can try to claim that Congress didn't give him the money, but that's not true.

The SCOTUS can't base a decision on Congressional refusal to vote for the funds, because Congress did vote for the funds.

The Court can, however, dip into the murky waters of Unitary Executive powers, and decide Bush can take the money and ignore the timelines.

If it does so, though, it officially and as a matter of precedent reduces Congress to an appendage of the Executive, which is after all the intent of the Unitary Executive theory.

Talk about legislating from the bench!

he's right.

Correct.

The theme of the Bush administration is "l'etat, c'est moi". Or, stated in Bush's own vernacular, "I'm the decider". Or, to be uncharitable, stated in terms of his apparent developmental age, "You're not the boss of me". Take your pick, the message is the same.

Bush isn't running for re-election. I'm sure he has some regard for his own legacy, but in his own words, in 100 years we'll all be dead. He has little or nothing to lose in pushing this issue as far as he can push it, and I think doing so suits his temperament to a T. It's a game he enjoys playing.

Most members of Congress will be running for re-election in a year and a half. All will be running within six years. More to the point, perhaps, most have sufficient respect for the institutions of American government that they are reluctant to push them to the breaking point.

Not so our boy George.

Bush is one guy, and he clearly just does not care how much damage he does. He'll take it to the mat.

Congress is 535 people in total, with a mix of motivations and concerns, and, in the aggregate, a (commendably) much greater reluctance to bet the farm.

In a game of chicken, which is what this is turning into, the odds are with Bush.

Thanks -

It all comes down to a couple of questions, which are unknowable at this point:

How much does the prospect of "2008: Iraq Without End" spook Republican congressmen?

How much damage will the Gonzales hearings (or resignation), Walter Reed hearings, Waxman hearings, etc., do to Bush, and how many Republican congressmen will be spooked by that?

Will the public perceive "the Democrats won't fund the troops" or "Bush has vetoed money for the troops" ?

How worried about "not funding the troops" are Democrats running in the 2008 elections?

Answer those four questions and you'll have a better idea how the post-veto landscape looks....

Give me what I want or I will take the money out of FICA taxes

oh man, i'd love him to try that. i'd run for office m'self, just to be able to run ads that say "The GOP wants to spend your Social Security money on Iraq!"

vote cleek in 08, for a Saintsbury pinot noir in every rack!

Hilzoy: That has to pass

CaseyL: He can try to claim that Congress didn't give him the money, but that's not true.

Sadly, I’m not sure what truth has to do with it at this point. I suspect that they’ll focus more on the pork than the timelines. There are a lot of things on the pork menu that appear to be pretty silly when you equate them to funding the troops. So if you want to avoid the timeline discussion - focus on the pork.

When there is a delay caused by a veto: Congress thought it was more important to take their break than to get this bill through conference and onto my desk…

Gary: …I think that this would be more relevant if the Republicans hadn't also loaded up their previous emergency appropriations bills for the wars with tons of similar pork, and equally delayed passing the bills for months.

The spotlight wasn’t shining as brightly on the process then, and Republicans had the power to pass it without a knock-down drag-out fight or a real threat of veto. If Democrats had had the power to block it then, that would have put Republicans on the defensive in terms of defending the pork. I agree with you that there is no difference, but as I noted, what does truth have to do with it :(

The administration has been off their PR game for years, but there seems to be a lot to work with here. Repeated cries, true or not, that Democrats are obstructing critical funding for the troops (because they won’t send Bush a bill he can sign) is all it will take. All of this is my opinion/prediction and nothing more. Nor am I saying it is my desired outcome.

All of which is a longer way of saying:

IMO the Democrats would be in the driver’s seat right now if they had passed a bill with the funding and the timelines, but without all the pork. The fact that they had to lard it up to get their own caucus on board (and Rangel is copping to that on TV) weakens their case a lot IMO.

OCSteve is correct on this, unfortunately. Truth seldom really matters, perception does matter.

One of the problems is that Bush is focusing on the pork. But if you were to ask 100 Americans what the pork consists of, 99 of them would not have the slightest idea. Most of the extra money is actually quite reasonable and necessary.

Secondly, the fact that the Democratic leadership agreed to much of it shows how committed they are to funding the troops, since most of the opposition that needed to be won over was against any continued funding at all. That is not pushed very much.

Of course, that hardcore liberal media is making sure that the public understands all this. Oops, no it isn't.

I agree that the pork is a problem, but I'm not sure that Bush can claim it's a big enough problem that it warrants vetoing the bill. He's going to hold up funding for the troops because of his principled opposition to a little pork? I think he has to focus on the idea that the timelines are somehow a congressional usurpation of his presidential authority that has to be vetoed. But as you say, truth and rationality have nothing to do with what will happen.

"The GOP wants to spend your Social Security money on Iraq!"

I don't know if it matters. Like the Republican shutdown, if Bush sends the SS money to Iraq, the people may hate him (doesn't matter) may want him impeached(won't happen)...but first and foremost, they will want their checks. Congress will cave.

And Giuliani or Romney or Huckabee didn't stop the checks. McCain may not matter.

I don't think the Democrats have the real option, but if they want to stop the war, the need to actually defund the war. No bullets, body armor, fuel. The Generals won't let Brigades die to support Bush stubborness. It would be very ugly, but what would you expect?

We need to go up a level or two in ugliness and rancor.

The Generals won't let Brigades die to support Bush stubborness. It would be very ugly, but what would you expect?

It would be very, uh, interesting to see what happens if summer rolls around and the supply of ammunition, equipment and fuel to the troops in Iraq/Afghanistan comes to a halt. What would the generals et al. do?

" I certainly can imagine that this SCOTUS might say that in time of war, for military emergency or immediate need, the CinC can find the necessary funds wherever he has to."

I can't. The constitution clearly gives Congress the exclusive power to appropriate money. The founders knew what they were doing--after all, a claim by Charles I that he had inherent power even without parliamentary consent to impose a tax to fund the military defense of the country was a crucial cause of the English Civil War. Do a google search on the term "ship money".

"Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Second — [cries of, "treason"] — may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it."--with apologies to Patrick Henry

He is the third George, rea. Washington was the first.

"We need to go up a level or two in ugliness and rancor."

Bob, have you ever noticed that something like 4 out of 5 of your comments always seem to say something like this?

You seem compelled to either predict, or call for, massive war, rioting, revolution, violence, death, suppression, repression, and horror, about that frequently. Whatever the issue is, your comment is almost always that we either will have more violence and evil and dreadfulness, or we must cause it in order to turn things around.

I'm just impressed with your longterm consistency on these themes. (The other one is that conspiratorial forces have arranged things to be the way they are, and are controlling events, which you'll see if you just look behind the curtain; I was really impressed that you even took that view into reading Tolkien (the Three Elven Rings were conspiring against their wearers), but again: I'm much impressed by the consistency.)

Hmm, the polls are better than I feared. Maybe that'll help the Democrats maintain their spines despite Bush's bigger megaphone.

Unfortunately, strong public sentiment in favor of something the pundit and consultant classes dislike may not help much. We can hope, of course. And push.

"Bob, have you ever noticed that something like 4 out of 5 of your comments always seem to say something like this?"

Gary, have you noticed that etc of your comments are ad hominem?

And lies. Do 4 of 5 of my comments in the Tolkien thread below fit this description? How many of my comments in this thread...

Just ad hominem lies. And spelling corrections, for God's sakes. Never mind. You are hilzoy's paid bouncer and troll repellent, and I am gone. Blog deleted.

The way I see it, it breaks out in the Dems' favor.

Round one: Get the bill through committee. Get in on the Oval Office desk.

Round two: It gets vetoed.

Wait out the clock for a while....

Round three: It's the legislative equivalent of 4:55 PM on the day before the funding runs out. Bring up a vote to override the veto. If it doesn't pass, the troops are stuck in Iraq with money for food, ammo, or plane tickets home. Under those circumstances, Republican congressmen are faced with a choice:

a) Vote to override the veto, fund the troops, and distance yourself from an incredibly unpopular administration.

b) Vote to leave the troops high and dry, while looking like W's dumbest toady.

I'd bet the veto gets overturned.

Jay,

Could be. Of course they could do even better on the next round and preface the funding with a litany of incompetence, bungling and offensive behavior on the part of the Bush Administration that caused the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to be failures despite the best efforts of our valiant, honorable troops.

Still, I think that Bush is just as clueless as he is acting. Rove and Cheney need to resign or be removed from office so some of the less mulish Republicans can try to save the last two years of this administration (and the Republican Party).

Round three: It's the legislative equivalent of 4:55 PM on the day before the funding runs out. Bring up a vote to override the veto. If it doesn't pass, the troops are stuck in Iraq with money for food, ammo, or plane tickets home.

I think that's exactly the kind of "playing chicken" that the Democrats have said they won't do. Look, I blame Bush, but it would still be pretty irresponsible for both sides to let it come to this point without finding some other solution.

"Just ad hominem lies."

Er, it wasn't a personal attack, Bob. Just an amused and affectionate observation.

"You are hilzoy's paid bouncer and troll repellent...."

Um, this is not a particularly accurate observation.

If it is, I really need to work on my union contract, to get us bouncers better pay. And Hilzoy probably would want to better enforce the clause that says I never can publically disagree with her.

Anyway, I'm sorry that my comment took you the wrong way; I worried a bit that it might, but figured it was not out of line, and and I shouldn't worry so much about possible unreasonable responses. Whichever, hope you're in a cheerier mood soon.

We need to go up a level or two in ugliness and rancor.

FWIW, I disagree. More ugliness and rancor is not really what is needed.

What is needed, again IMVHO, are subpoenas, then indictments, then jail. For sitting office holders, impeachment may have to serve as the best available substitute for jail.

Rancor will run off of the backs of Bush and his pals like water off a duck's. It will not make the slightest dent. They live and breathe rancor. It's their mother's milk.

Indirectly, of course, and only through third parties.

Throw some out of office and/or in jail and you will concentrate their minds wonderfully.

To quote a notable American, "Speak softly and carry a big stick".

Strong words don't matter. Strong deeds do.

If it is, I really need to work on my union contract

To paraphrase the sublime Billy Zoom, "selling out is when you get a lot of money".

You know, I'm not really a regular here, but somehow I can't see Gary as hilzoy's paid bouncer.

Thanks -

We need to go up a level or two in ugliness and rancor.

FWIW, I disagree. More ugliness and rancor is not really what is needed.

What is needed, again IMVHO, are subpoenas, then indictments, then jail. For sitting office holders, impeachment may have to serve as the best available substitute for jail.

Rancor will run off of the backs of Bush and his pals like water off a duck's. It will not make the slightest dent. They live and breathe rancor. It's their mother's milk.

Indirectly, of course, and only through third parties.

Throw some out of office and/or in jail and you will concentrate their minds wonderfully.

To quote a notable American, "Speak softly and carry a big stick".

Strong words don't matter. Strong deeds do.

If it is, I really need to work on my union contract

To paraphrase the sublime Billy Zoom, "selling out is when you get a lot of money".

You know, I'm not really a long time regular here, but somehow I can't see Gary as hilzoy's paid bouncer. I think he's just a stickler -- a real stickler -- for detail.

Thanks -

D'oh.

Second post has my final edits. Technology will be the end of me yet.

Thanks -

"You are hilzoy's paid bouncer and troll repellent"

--??!!

-- Huh?

After Bob's reaction, I did kinda wonder a fair bit if I'd deeply misread my own tone, and how what I said came across to others.

Because I really didn't meant to be offensive to Bob, and I didn't in the least intend to say anything mean, or out of line, or unfair, or untoward, or unreasonable, to or about him, in that comment. Did either my tone or content seem particularly so to y'all? I'll attempt to apologize more profusely to Bob if people think I was particularly out of line, or inappropriate, pr nasty, or vicious, or whathaveyou. Feedback? (Secondary question being that setting aside that I didn't mean literally that it was a fixed ratio of four out of every five of his messages, of course, since that would be absurd, did what I say about my impression of Bob seem wrong?)

Bob has for some time given me to feel like I need to figuratively walk on eggshells in responding to anything he says, since my (entirely subjective) perception is that it's not hard to get that sort of response, and I'm not remotely able to predict when I'll set it off, from Bob, but it's entirely possible that I'm entirely wrong, and that that's an entirely unfair perception, of course. (And goodness knows I don't claim to not be full of annoying qualities at times.)

Anyway.

"You are hilzoy's paid bouncer and troll repellent"

A parallel response to the way Bob seems to respond might be to declare that these are terrible untrue lies about me, but I entertain the possibility that Bob wasn't being entirely literal when he wrote them.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong about that, too.

Gary: when I read your original note, it did not seem to me affectionate kidding, as I believe you intended. After the Tolkien argument (which I only read part of), it came across as "Not only are you obsessively wrong about the Rings of Power, you're also obsessively wrong about other things." In context, what you intended to be affectionate kidding seemed more like the faux affection some people use as a way of cementing inferiority. (Think of the way Bush renames people by picking nicknames for them or inappropriately lays hands on them [Merkel, bald men's heads]. I don't believe those are friendly, jolly gestures.)

I, on the other hand, took Gary's comments as jocular . I would not have expected Bob to reply affectionately with "Hug it out," but I would have thought he might think, at worst, "Oh, shucks, there's Gary being Gary again," since both are longtime players here. Thus I was a bit surprised at his rancorous response . . . but of course the remarks weren't directed at me

But we're all tired, and a bit cranky, and a good night's sleep (if we ever got one) might do us the world of good.

Good Night, All.

Dr Ngo: but I would have thought he might think, at worst, "Oh, shucks, there's Gary being Gary again"

How long, though, should people have to put up with being insulted on a regular basis because "Oh shucks, that's just what this guy does"? I'm sorry Bob left: I'd have recommended the non-compliance route of just not responding to anything Gary says. Works for me.

Open Thread at TiO for this. Come on down!

How long, though, should people have to put up with being insulted on a regular basis because "Oh shucks, that's just what this guy does"?

Um. Oh, dear. Something about motes and planks and . . . oh, lump it.

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