As children, we were taught that if you play with fire, you might get burned. This week it became evident that Democrats have discovered that playing political games with the Iraq War issue can be equally disastrous. When they took over the new Congress in January, there were claims that last November’s elections had given them a “mandate” to bring the troops home from Iraq, and for the last five months the House and Senate have been virtually myopic on the war issue — doing little more than passing funding bills which contained deadlines and other conditions that they knew would bring presidential vetoes. They also knew they didn’t have anywhere near the number of votes needed to override the vetoes.
As the debate lingered on, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said it more bluntly than anyone: if the Democrats were successful in forcing a bring-the-troops-home deadline, the Iraq war would become their responsibility and they would have to accept responsibility for the consequences. It is generally accepted that, at the least, a pre-mature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would result in total chaos there. At worst would be a takeover of the country by a coalition of militant Muslim jihadists and al Qaeda which would heighten the terrorist threat world-wide. If the Democrat leadership didn’t recognize that danger, it was clear that the American people did. Despite an obvious frustration with the war that is reflected in the polls, a New York Times poll this week shows that 69% feel that Congress should continue its funding of the war effort albeit with some benchmarks for progress that the Iraqi government must meet.
It had been a long, headline-grabbing show but on Thursday night it was showdown time. By an overwhelming 80 to 14 majority, the Senate voted to approve a $94.5 billion funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 37 Democrats voted “aye” and only 10 voted against the bill. (Republicans Burr (N.C.), Coburn (Okla.), and Enzi (Wy.) also voted “nay” but not because they were against funding the troops. They objected to $17 billion in new funding, not related to the war, that was attached to the bill.)
The bill had already been approved in the House by a 280 to 142 majority (86 Democrats and 194 Republicans voting “aye”, 140 Democrats and two Republicans voting “nay”).
The real dilemma was the one facing Democrat presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama. To win their party’s nomination, they would have to keep the support of the lunatic, but rich, anti-war left. MoveOn.org, the most notable and powerful of the anti-war groups, had mobilized an enormous lobbying effort making so many phone calls to congressmen on Wednesday and Thursday that several offices complained they couldn’t get a line to make an outgoing call.
Also to be weighed was the fact that a vote opposing funding for our troops in the field would surely come back to haunt them later, after they won the nomination, jeopardizing their chances of winning a presidential election with a much more moderate electorate. Both Senators had previously voted for funding, but on Thursday they caved in to the enormous pressure from their extremist backers and voted "nay."
There was some cat-and-mouse maneuvering during the voting. As is customary, the first calling of the roll was not answered by many Senators who stroll into the chamber and cast their vote just before time elapses. Clinton waited until Obama voted just prior to the deadline. After she heard his “nay”, she quickly came forward and voted the same. Other leaders in the Democrat presidential race echoed their position. Former Senator John Edwards (D.-N.C.) who is to the left of both Clinton and Obama had already declared that he would have opposed the bill. Non-candidate (but still third highest in the polls) Al Gore has staked out a far leftfield position almost identical to Edwards.
Bottom line: all of the leading Democrat presidential contenders have decided to posture themselves with the extreme left of their party, competing for the affection (and dollars) of MoveOn.org, Streissand, et al. Also-runners Chris Dodd (R.-Conn.) and Joe Biden (D.-Del.) were split on the issue with Dodd voting “nay”, Biden “aye”. The other Democrat “nays” were cast by: Boxer (Calif.), Feingold (Wis.), Kennedy (Mass.), Kerry (Mass.), Leahy (Vt.), Sanders (I.-Vt.), Whitehouse (R.I.) and Wyden (Ore.)
Some obvious questions arise. Surely Democrat leaders knew months ago that there was no chance that an Iraq War funding bill containing withdrawal deadlines would ever be approved. The President had made it clear that any such legislation would be vetoed. An 80 to 14 rejection could hardly have come as a big surprise. So why did they waste all that time — virtually the entire first half of this session? If there was serious concern about the cost of the war, what about the cost of the operations of Congress for those five wasted months — itself billions of dollars. For what?
The most recent Gallup poll shows President Bush with an approval rating of only 33%. It also shows that the approval rating for the much-heralded Democrat Congress is only 29% and is on the decline. Surprised?