America's 535 Commanders in Chief

In the run-up before the White House unveils its new Iraq policy, two top Democrats have preemptively written a letter to President Bush opposing a surge of U.S. troops to the region, one senior Democrat running for President has vowed to resist the plan, and now one who may announce his 2008 candidacy soon is investigating how Democrats might cut off funding for increased troops.

Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.), considered a formidable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, stayed after a Capitol Hill press conference yesterday on the ethics reform bill to explain how Democrats might use the power of the purse to stop President Bush from implementing his Iraq plan.

At a press conference later in the day, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (N.C.) said a number of 20,000 more troops being shipped to Iraq was being “floated out” from the White House.

Obama said, “My office is now investigating what tools are available to us, to condition or constrain appropriations” as a means of withholding funding for more troops to Iraq.

“Whether you can carve out and say we are going to fund this but not additional troops, that’s not clear,” he said. “But those are the kinds of questions I think are being asked right now.”

In a meeting with Bush last week, Obama said he “expressed clear and unequivocal opposition to any escalation of the troops in Iraq.”

Last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) sent a letter to the President that said, “Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. … Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months.”

On Sunday’s edition of NBC’s "Meet the Press," another presidential hopeful, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden (D.-Del.), told Tim Russert he would say “no” to any calls for more troops to Iraq. Biden added that he had already drafted a resolution to force the President to reconsider that option.

Shortly after Obama left the Senate press gallery, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.) and Graham spoke to reporters about their support for the expected proposal to send more troops to the region.

This was Lieberman’s second appearance in a week with a Republican senator. On Friday he spoke with Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) at the American Enterprise Institute on the matter.

“I think it would be a monumental mistake if the Congress of the United States tries to micromanage this war,” said Graham. “Any effort by Congress to control troops levels and cut off funding for those in harms way, I think would run again the advice of the new military leadership on the ground.”

“One thing I know for sure is that you’ll never win any war with 535 commanders in chief,” he said.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.), also likely to announce a 2008 bid, met with Bush last week, but has not offered a formal statement on her conversation with him. In a January 4 interview with RNN’s Richard French she said, “I don’t see any military strategy particularly on that level [increasing troops 10,000-20,000] making a difference” because “it will not bring about the resolution of the internal conflict that is going on.”