Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Senator Daschle Catches Up to Saudi Arabia?

Nothing concentrates the minds of the more opportunistic United States Senators like a good public opinion poll flashing like the headlights of a semi oncoming in their lane. One might like to believe that some other factor led Senator Daschle into capitutlating and promising a Senate vote on an Iraq war resolution well before election day - but the times call for us all to discard such naivete.

Since entering the Los Angeles' Times web site is about as easy as gaining access to the Pentagon while dressed in a burka these days, I set out a good part of the linked article below:

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday agreed to vote before the midterm elections on a resolution supporting action against Iraq, dropping their complaints that they were being rushed to judgment before the Bush administration had fully made its case.


After weeks of raising questions and voicing caution about Bush's request that Congress move quickly to support action in Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) embraced the aim of holding a vote on Iraq policy before Congress adjourns in mid-October for the elections.

"I think there will be a vote well before the election," said Daschle, who will join other congressional leaders at the White House today to discuss the resolution's timing and wording. "The real question is what will the resolution say."

That shift by Senate Democrats blunts one of the few sources of domestic political resistance to Bush as he has moved toward a confrontation with Hussein. And it is likely to strengthen Bush's hand as he tries to rally the international community and the American public behind his initiative against Iraq.


Many Democrats had wanted to postpone a vote until after the elections; Daschle has repeatedly warned that a preelection vote risked politicizing the issue. But in a shift, Daschle said he was now calling for early action because Bush had complied with most of the requests that lawmakers had made: to consult with Congress, seek support from the U.N. and to more explicitly make the case for action against Iraq.

Daschle said he was encouraged by Bush's speech to the U.N. and by signs of growing global support for Bush's efforts. He said he still did not think there was "conclusive evidence" about the threat posed by Iraq, but he no longer insisted such evidence be provided as a prelude to rallying behind Bush.

The new support for quick action by Congress came even as some lawmakers were questioning whether such a vote should be delayed after Iraq's announcement Monday that it would allow U.N. weapons inspectors unconditional access to suspected weapons sites.

"A few weeks is well worth waiting if it allows us to avoid a war," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.).

But most lawmakers said that they had little faith in Hussein's willingness to allow unfettered inspections and that Congress should not be diverted from acting on its own. Indeed, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said a vote of support by Congress could help the U.S. win tougher action by the U.N.

Jockeying over the timing of any vote on Iraq has been laden with political overtones because of the elections, in which both parties are laboring fiercely for control of the House and Senate. Many Democrats have been concerned that a protracted debate over Iraq would cast a long shadow over the agenda of issues they believe work to their advantage--the economy and other domestic issues.

But some have argued that the sooner the issue is disposed of, the more time Democrats will have to spotlight other issues in the campaign.


Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said: "I don't want an open-ended Gulf of Tonkin resolution," a reference to the controversial measure that allowed expanded U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Dodd said he would prefer to see a resolution focused on eliminating weapons of mass destruction. Although he would not necessarily oppose efforts to promote regime change, "My goal here is to deal with the weapons of mass destruction. If regime change is an added benefit to all of this, then fine. But if you get regime change and you have weapons of mass destruction in place, then what have you gained?"

Some Republicans who have been slow to accept Bush's case against Iraq also showed new willingness to move more aggressively. "We can't condition our action on what may or may not transpire in the U.N.," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine).

Senator Daschle's statement that he was calling for early action because "Bush had complied with most of the requests that lawmakers had made: to consult with Congress, seek support from the U.N. and to more explicitly make the case for action against Iraq" is particularly interesting since right after the President's United Nations speech somebody impersonating Senator Daschle told the media: "I don't think that the case for a pre-emptive attack has been made conclusively yet."

If I may attempt to construe the words of the South Dakota oracle:

Contrary to his prior stance, Senator Daschle now says that the Senate should take early action to authorize a pre-emptive strike even though no "case for a pre-emptive attack has been made conclusively yet" and "there isn't 'conclusive evidence' about the threat posed by Iraq." That's because he no longer "insists" that "such evidence be provided as a prelude to rallying behind Bush."

It's all very nice that the good Senator now wants to defer to the President, but the media has an obligation forcefully to ask Senator Daschle why he has changed his mind and gotten deferential to the President by precipitously dropping any demand for "conclusive" evidence or a "conclusive" case against Iraq. Why in the good Senator's mind was "conclusiveness" the standard for the past many months, but suddenly is not needed now? My guess is that it has something to do with those polls and an election now just a few weeks away - but don't expect the Mandarin from Aberdeen to admit to that.

UPDATE: Another article on today's position of Senator Daschle.

Comments: Post a Comment