Laugh or shake your head at the above question at your own peril.
Because there are a couple of very disturbing trends emerging over the past couple of months that should make all of us, as well as the Congressional Democrats, sit up and take notice. Saying that “we know we have to do better”, as Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid recently said won’t cut it. The level of anger and resentment over the capitulation bill was far greater than they estimated.
And if there isn’t something with real teeth coming out of the Defense spending bill debates, there may not be another chance that the Democrats have to recover – that is until and unless they concede some credit to the republicans (which is already happening in the press) for any change of course that may occur. This, as of a few months ago was an absolutely laughable thought, and is still pretty ridiculous, given the 100% total and unconditional support to anything that this administration has done or wanted to do in Iraq for the past 5 years.
But a very different story is starting to emerge – even as the Congressional republicans are stonewalling any meaningful attempt by the Democrats to do anything on Iraq – symbolic (which, by the way, most Americans see right through anyway) or not. And this story is nothing short of a potential disaster for the Democratic Party.
For starters, DrWolfy has a diary up that points out the very low approval rating of Congressional Democrats, with a 20 point drop amongst Democrats over the past two months. Now, I don’t want to really discuss the finer points of a poll in general, or the polling methods of AP/Ipsos, because I want to focus on the larger picture here.
I’ll start with what people are saying about Democrats and then talk about how the republicans are slowly being portrayed as “coming out against Bush” with respect to Iraq. For starters, here are some quotes from The Bergen Record article yesterday:
"I disapprove of all the fighting that they do all the time," said Tammy Lambirth, a Democrat and data researcher from San Antonio. "They're not making George Bush do anything. They're not doing anything themselves."
"They've abandoned all the social issues," lamented Rod Butler, a Democrat and a music teacher from Redondo Beach, Calif. "They don't want to deal with universal health care. They don't want to deal with the problems in our education system. It just goes on and on."
Lambirth again, from a different article:
"The Republicans are just stonewalling everything, and the Democrats are just not stepping up and making them do what they need to do, especially about Iraq," said Lambirth, a Democrat. "They need to make our troops get out of Iraq."
From a WaPo article last week:
"I think Americans were expecting a great deal from the new Congress, and Congress has always been held in low esteem, but Congress really hasn't delivered on what it promised, especially on Iraq," said Paul Light, a congressional expert who is a professor at New York University.
"I think the decline in support (for Congress) since the Democrats took over reflects in part the unhappiness of the base in the inability of Democrats to immediately stop the war in Iraq," said Thomas Mann, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution.
Of course, immediately stopping the war is an unfair expectation, but nothing of real consequence isn’t something to be proud of either. Now, I am of the opinion that something will be done to the extent that there will be less troops in Iraq by next year. I also think that (and this may be the subject of a future diary) that Iraq will be more “off the table” than we think come next year. Sure, there will be a disaster to deal with, sure there will be troops there and a bloody humanitarian crisis. But most Americans seem to only be concerned with getting our troops out – and not as much as the aftermath (other than the “they’ll follow us home” line, which I don’t even know how powerful that still is).
All that being said, that leads me into the second part of my point – and the title of this diary. It isn’t enough to continue to hold “symbolic votes” to show where the republicans stand on Iraq. There is Democratic Senator Carl Levin coming out and talking about “not leaving our troops out there without funding”. There are the Blue Dogs in the House who are still a bit skittish with respect to any drastic bills or statements regarding getting out of Iraq.
And there really aren’t any prominent Democrats who have come out and directly (as well as forcefully) refuted the absolute lie about stranding our troops in Iraq if funding is cut. There also isn’t much of a forceful pointing out of the absolute hypocrisy of the republicans who called for a withdrawal date or an end to funding of military missions when Clinton was president.
All of this would hurt the Democrats as is. However, we have been subjected to a flurry of “brave brave republicans stand up to Bush on Iraq” headlines lately. Just consider the following:
- McClatchy’s latest talks about Lugar and Warner in a headline that blares: GOP senators to Bush: Start planning for Iraq withdrawal.
- The Guardian had the following headline: Bush faces down own party as discontent over Iraq deepens.
- The WaPo reported this headline today: White House spurns Republican Iraq proposal.
- And yesterday, Bloomberg reported that: Bush Rejects Republican Demand for Troop Withdrawal From Iraq.
Now, it is painfully obvious that anything that would pass Congress would need a major bipartisan approval in order to override a Bush veto. But the story that is emerging is that the Democrats can’t get their act together on an Iraq withdrawal plan, and some “bold respected GOP Senators are calling for a new way in Iraq” or “Republicans look for change of course in Iraq” or “Congressional republicans won’t support continued Iraq plan”.
What is even worse here is that there has been no meaningful legislation proposed or even any meaningful alternative that republicans are letting come to the floor for a vote, when it comes to our troops.
Yet, it isn’t the Democrats who are getting any credit for trying to change the debate and push a plan forward. The blocking of meaningful amendments by republicans in Congress isn’t getting any notice. The continued “same as it ever was” action by the Congressional republicans is getting buried. Fingers are being pointed at Congress in general, and when specific, more so at the Democrats.
As ludicrous as it sounds, it is the Democrats who are getting the blame for not doing enough to get our troops out of Iraq, even though they have only had a few months and fewer opportunities to do so. And it is the republicans who are getting the small bit of glory for pressuring Bush to change course.
If and when there is meaningful change on Iraq, you can bet that the republicans will try as hard as they can to take the credit for it. And if the Democrats let that happen, then that is as pathetic as it is laughable.
And scary for us all as it could mean disaster for the Democrats come next November.