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September 19, 2007

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They got two--don't forget the habeas corpus bill, with roughly the same vote. Where did "Independent Joe" come in on this one?

At least the Democrats almost all stuck together today, so we don't have to read all those rants about how much they suck.

Those rants have their place, but somehow if 49 Republicans and 2 Democrats vote against something, it's always the Democrats' fault for not holding their caucus together. You'd think the 49 Republicans had nothing to be ashamed of.

I object. This post is predicated on the idea that those people are capable of feeling shame. They are not.

independent joe voted against it.

Good job Connecticut.

I grieve for the lost chance to restore our national honor on the habeas bill (but we can bring this up again). The rotation bill, I'm not so unhappy about. It's a sneaky and underhanded way to end the war, which makes the anti-war side look bad, and it sets a lousy precedent, both in terms of legislative micromanaging of troop movements and in giving a whole new right to members of the armed forces that could come back and bite us some time when we actually need them to work longer rotations. This is a war of choice, and a stupid choice. Not all wars will be.

So, now we can say quite truthfully that the Republicans not only won't end the war, they won't even let the troops rest. That's not a bad propaganda point.

that could come back and bite us some time when we actually need them to work longer rotations.

There's nothing keeping a future Congress from voting longer rotations. I think that the firehouse rule (no more time "on" than time "off") works pretty well. If you need more bodies, get more bodies -- don't work the ones you have longer.

The rotation bill, I'm not so unhappy about. It's a sneaky and underhanded way to end the war, which makes the anti-war side look bad, and it sets a lousy precedent, both in terms of legislative micromanaging of troop movements and in giving a whole new right to members of the armed forces that could come back and bite us some time when we actually need them to work longer rotations.

The most polite response I can give to this is to refer you to Sen. Webb's floor testimony.

It is not a sneaky way to end the war. It is a way of keeping the troops from being held hostage to the political paralysis caused by the unwillingness of both parties (but one much more than another) to honestly acknowledge that we're leaving and figure out the best way how.

It is not a "terrible precedent"; the terrible precedent is the absolutely unheard-of abusive deployments now happening, to a combat zone where there is virtually no rear guard. It is an effort to move from officer-hemorrhaging, PTSD-creating, family-destroying .75:1 ratios of base time to combat toward the traditional practice of 2:1. The deployments are absolutely, completely incompatible with a volunteer force.

Jeff says it better and shorter.

The shameful thing will be if Democrats don't bring Webb's amendment back, and back again, and back again, and to hell with chickensh*t "agreements" on meaningless, symbolic ass-covering Republican resolutions.

This isn't about propaganda points, it's about people's lives. And about having a functioning military.

Support the trupes.

What Nell said.

i heard Huckleberry Graham yammering away that with this bill we would "choose defeat", and that that way was the only way we could lose. such hubris.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, includes the following, that Congress has the power:

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

It's Congress' job to monitor and administer length of troop deployments. Congress makes the rules for what constitutes military service and for how long.

The Commander-in-Chief is not the supreme king of the troops -- he is the battlefield commander. Once Congress declares war, he makes the final decisions on waging the war. But Congress still funds and administers the troops.

Congress is well within its power to say to the Commander in Chief "Sorry, you can't run the troops into the ground -- they need a rest. If you want more troops, come and ask for them."

That's the way it's supposed to work, anyway...

A question.

"In current practice, Senate Rule 22 permits filibusters, in which actual continuous floor speeches are not required, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses."

Why didn't Harry Reid so choose? For, say a week, until it creates a real media storm? It seems like a no-brainer:
1. The Webb Amendment is politically 'safe', and would get publicized.
2. It would become much clearer in the uninformed public's mind that a majority in the Senate is not enough, we need more Democrats to make a real difference.
3. It puts a lot of pressure on Republicans in their districts

Really truly. This makes the shrill screams from Left Blogistan that the Dems have no spine a lot more credible.

Any ideas? I'm not interested in a debate on whether Dems have a spine. I just want to know: Why didn't Harry Reid demand an actual traditional filibuster??

(4th minor benefit) The MSM would use the word filibuster, and they would report Republicans as the people blocking a majority.


markup deitaliexo !

@tomtom: That's the million-dollar question.

I haven't read around the activist Dem blog world this morning, but it seems worthwhile to me to call for a mass of pressure on Reid, Durbin, et al.

I called Reid's office early yesterday afternoon to put in a plug for forcing a real filibuster on the Webb bill. Multiply that by a couple hundred thousand and we might get somewhere...

@OCSteve: I'll go further. If the Dems don't bring back the Webb amendment and fight for it by forcing the Rs to filibuster for real (for all the excellent reasons tomtom gives, plus the overriding one of getting the rest between deployment to actually happen), then I'm prepared to say that it was just a propaganda point.

If I were Jim Webb I'd be sitting down with Harry Reid and having a few choice words. I hope that's happening.

Or, as I've said on previous occasions about Dem "strategy": moral and political failure: better together!

I don't understand these stupid pseudo-filibuster games. If the Democrats want something badly, force a real filibuster and watch Republicans break. I don't understand why that doesn't happen.

You and me both, SH. One possibility is that given the backup of the veto, breaking a Republican filibuster wouldn't actually get anything enacted into law. I'd still like to see the filibusters forced for PR reasons, but it's possible that I'm misjudging the PR effect.

But I do wish they'd do it.

Attempting an explanation rather than an excuse, I imagine that the majority are still holding out for sanity to descend and the forcing of real filibusters is viewed (correctly or not) as a point of no return. I could see that once the djini is let out of the bottle, the filibuster could be deployed by a handful of real nutcases to draw attention to causes that fire up their particular base, and nothing would get done. I could see filibustering unrelated bills to draw attention to another Schiavo, or illegal immigrants, or the myth of global warming.

Nell -- I'm very well aware of why the bill was proposed, and probably as upset as you are about the abuse of our troops. We are wrecking a very good army. But this cure may not be worse than the disease, or anyway almost as bad.

Jeff -- it is very difficult, politically, to take rights away once they have been given. Create the norm that the troops get equal time to rest, not just as sound practice and custom but as a matter of legal entitlement, and any future Congress will find it very difficult to withdraw that right. We had trouble with this sort of thing in the Revolution and in the Civil War, troops just leaving in the middle of a campaign because their enlistments were up. I don't think we want to return to that.

zmulls:
"government and regulation" of the forces sounds to me like it's about general, universal regulation. Things like pay scales, uniform code of military justice, supply procedures -- governing the way the armed forces are run overall. As opposed to this bill, which was unmistakably aimed at moving particular troops back home in the near future. If a general rule, it's a bad one for the reasons I stated above; if a specific rule, it may be unconstitutional and is at least not something the legislature is well suited to do. That the legislature has the power to affect some area does not necessarily mean that it is a good idea for them to do so.

Beware of "fad laws" -- laws that create a general rule to solve some specific short-term problem that caught the public eye. That is sometimes the only way to solve the problem, but the law itself may create more trouble over decades than it solved immediately.

Sorry, typo above. I meant to say "this cure may be worse than the disease"

Create the norm that the troops get equal time to rest, not just as sound practice and custom but as a matter of legal entitlement, and any future Congress will find it very difficult to withdraw that right.

Because we can't give the troops the same benefits we give firemen, right? If we did, we wouldn't be "supporting" them.

We need different things out of firemen and the military. With very few exceptions, firemen fight about the same number and severity of fires each year. We can reasonably project well ahead of time how many firemen we will need. This makes it possible for us to hire enough of them to give each of them a decent amount of time for rest afterwards. This is good policy and money well spent, because it is much safer for the firemen and for the citizens they protect.

Wars are like forest fires, not like building fires. They often flare up unexpectedly, and there is no way to predict how big they will become when they start (tho G-d knows the Bushies could have made much smarter guesses had they bothered to apply any brains to the matter). Also, if you have a really big fire in, say, New York, that goes on for days, you can borrow firemen from, say, Newark or Philadelphia to help, or you can throw other emergency personnel into a lot of the jobs that firemen do. When your army is too small, there is no other army to borrow from, and each branch of the military is sufficiently specialized as to make interservice borrowing counterproductive as a general rule.

Many other things are also worse for line troops than for firemen. Firemen do not, generally, have to eat only what the firehouse serves. They do not, generally, have no chance to see their spouse after work. They do not, generally, get shot in the head while doing their job. They do not, generally, use experimental equipment that may blow up. They do not, generally, get ordered around by people who have never done this before. Are you going to change all of these things, because nobody should be treated worse than a fireman? If so, how effective do you expect the army to be?

For these reasons, it is not helpful to compare the working conditions of firemen to those of serving troops.

And another bill. At least this time the bill didn't get a majority, so the "Democrats fail to pass" headline isn't so bad.

Diane Rehm was just talking about the various recent bills blocked by Republican filibusters, but she used the standard "liberal" media language of "the Senate blocked" and "Democrats failed to push", rather than saying Republicans blocked bills that had majority support.

Just heard on NPR about "the third time this week the Democrats have come up short" on Iraq-related legislation. Not the third time Republicans blocked passage. I love our liberal media.

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