Friday, November 16, 2007

Setting the narrative on the Iraq spending bills

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

No doubt there will be much whining, hand-wringing and finger pointing by the republicans, the talking meatsticks and whoever else in the right wing noise machine with respect to the two votes on the Senate floor regarding the Iraq spending bills. For those who didn’t follow what has happened over the past couple of days, the short answer is this:

  • The House passed a bill that would give $50 billion, largely tied to bringing the troops home. While it is far from perfect, it did get support from some of the Out of Iraq Caucus;

  • The Senate had two bills introduced today, both of which did not have 60 votes.

  • Reid introduced a bill that basically mirrored the House bill – it “failed”, 53-45

  • McConnell introduced a bill (without consulting Reid) that would give $70 billion with no strings attached. That bill failed, 45-53.

So, what does that mean? Well, for starters, we have three things that come from this.

(1) The Democratic Party passed a bill with both a majority of the House and Senate, which reflects current American sentiment to bring the occupation of Iraq to an end.
(2) The republican party will not let the will of the people speak, nor will it let a majority of Congress’ will speak for the American people.
(3) The republicans in the Senate are hell bent on giving blank check after blank check to Bush for an unending occupation of Iraq - against the will of America.

It is those three items that should be the starting point for future discussions about Iraq. Granted, we have been down this road before, only to have Democratic Party momentum crash and burn when cleaner bills were passed, or there was no pushback to republican obstinacy. Here, things are a bit different, at least for now. For starters, there are many more Democrats willing to take a strong(er) stand, as evidenced by andgarden’s diary from yesterday. Secondly, Pelosi and Reid have indicated that if this bill fails or if it passes and is vetoed, then there will be no more funding bills being discussed until next year.

This could play out very well, provided that the Democratic leadership realizes that America is on their side here. It has become evident that the game for the republican party and Mister Bush is to hold their breath and play chicken with the troops’ lives on the line, and throw out line after line of propaganda as well as lie after lie about how the troops can’t be stranded on the battlefield. And to this point, their bluff hasn’t been called, therefore resulting in more and more funding with no consequence or real teeth in a bill.

But here, we are back to the same situation we were in earlier in the year, when a funding bill has to be passed in order for the occupation to continue. While some metrics indicate a decrease in violence, that is not due in large part to any major strategy by our troops (I have written about this extensively and it isn’t really the purpose of this diary). But this does lead to an opening for the Democrats, regardless of the level of violence:

  • If violence continues to decrease, then we can “declare victory and leave”;

  • If violence continues to increase, then it becomes more obvious that our troops (and mission) can not stop the sectarian cleansing and civil war – therefore the “surge” failed and we should leave.

Right now, the early headlines are looking pretty fair. The Yahoo News article linked above is titled ”Senate blocks Iraq war spending”, where the first sentence says the following:
The Senate on Friday blocked a Democratic proposal to pay for the Iraq war but require that troops start coming home.

The Reuters article headline is ”Senate Republicans halt Iraq withdrawal plan”. And with all this, the republican party is throwing out the line that “Democrats are being irresponsible”, which is the ultimate in “deny, deny, accuse” tactics that the republican party is best at. On top of this, there is the narrative coming out of the Pentagon that a lack of funding will hurt the troops.

So, there is, once again, an uphill battle (as we saw yesterday when Yahoo News changed its’ headline on Iran and the IAEA). But the key here is that the Democratic Party leadership must remain strong as there will now be a couple of months between now and the next time a funding bill comes up, and the rhetoric will be very heated and blown out of proportion.

This is why it is so very important to set the narrative and tone now for the next couple of months. If we don’t, then it becomes more likely that another $50 billion, or even more, gets allocated and approved with no (meaningful) strings attached.. Needless to say, in addition to this being completely against what the American people (and a majority of Congress) wants, but it will be an absolute killer for Democratic electoral chances next year

And being that it needs to be relatively simple, we should stick to the following:

  • Democrats are reflecting the will of America when it comes to Iraq.

  • A MAJORITY of BOTH Houses of Congress voted for a bill that would provide $50 billion related to Iraq and Afghanistan, only to be shot down by obstructionist republicans.

  • Congressional republicans want to continue providing tens of billions of dollars for Iraq with no strings attached.

  • Congressional republicans and the Bush administration are being irresponsible and reckless when it comes to Iraq.

  • Congressional republicans and Bush have had nearly $500 billion in blank checks and a complete say in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and they do not deserve any more second chances

  • The American people want accountability and responsibility, and the Democrats have been trying to provide this, only to have the republicans block all attempts at accountability.

It is now that the tone needs to be set. Here are the facts. Here are our “talking points” – now let’s get to work....

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