Man Without Qualities

Friday, January 19, 2007

And The Alternative Behind Door Number Two Is ...?

Yesterday we learned that Nancy Pelosi will not seek to cut off funding to block Mr. Bush's "troop surge." Indeed, the new Speaker said that "Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm's way" - which, of course, is exactly what another Democratic Congress did to force an end the Vietnam War.

There is no question that general discontent with the Iraq situation, and with the Administration's handling of it, is high and getting higher. Indeed, there is no real question that such discontent is the overwhelming reason why Democrats now have a tenuous majority in both Houses of Congress. But it's one thing to tap into public discontent with the direction of the Iraq incursion to win an election, and quite another thing to come up with a viable alternative. Coming up with a satisfactory alternative is now on Ms. Pelosi and her troops and the clock is ticking. But the political difficulty involved is apparent in the public's confused (to say the least) answers to this question in a recent Los Angeles Times Poll:
Q: What issue should be the first priority for the newly elected Congress to address? (top three responses; up to two responses accepted)
Only 20% of respondents said that "Set a timetable" should be top priority, 9% said "Oppose Bush plan" should have that priority, while a mere 7% thought that coming up with an "Alternative plan" should be tops. Healthcare drew 20% and Stronger immigration laws drew 10%.

That kind of grossly confused public sentiment may be a key reason Ms. Pelosi is taking no definitive action against the Bush move, while making inflamatory but highly ambiguous comments such as her assertion on Friday that the President is wading too deeply into Iraq and said it should not be "an obligation of the American people in perpetuity."

I'm not sure what the effect of a policy of super heated rhetoric coupled with feckless activity will be in the large - and I doubt if Ms. Pelosi does either. But I'm fairly sure that such a policy carries pretty big risks for the Speaker personally - and I think she does, too. The fact that she is prepared to take that risk is some indication of how volatile the crrent situation in Washington really is.

super-heated rhetoric -- feckless activity -- rather a good description of George Bush.
Annonymous -

Fair enough. Far too many people across all parts of the political spectrum would agree with you to dismiss your analogy. But if that's the case, the President's current standing with voters should serve as another measure of the risks Ms. Pelosi is assuming! For example, another finding in the same LA Times poll is that only 34% of those polled viewed her favorably - which is just slightly worse than Mr. Bush's 39% approval in the same poll (although more people say they don't know enough about the Speaker to have an opinion). On the other hand, Mr. Bush has no more elections in front of him, a luxury Ms. Pelosi does not enjoy while her clock ticks down. I'm not saying she's doomed - far from it. She's come further than many thought possible. But she's got a very tough job to do.
Robert, I take a more cynical view. I doubt that Ms. Pelosi has any alternative in mind other than withdrawal, and the sooner the better. It's all about the marketing and whether or not the Democrats can successfully exempt themselves from blame for achieving what they set out to do. The war in Iraq must fail. It must be all Bush's fault. That's the game.

I think you are correct as far as Pelosi's personal desires go. She would probably very much like to cut off funding right now - just as the Democratic Congress did in the 1970's to shut down the Vietnam war. Her statement about not defunding while the "troops" are in harms way is almost certainly cynical palaver on her part. But she clearly thinks that defunding now would be far too risky to her political career - and she's right.

Her problem is that she is in office because of exactly one issue: Iraq. She has no mandate for anything else (she and her media trolls try to deny this, but it's obvious) and the clock is ticking on that one issue. She must come up with an Iraq alternative - although I agree that in her mind she wants nothing but withdrawal. She has to find a way to get what she wants while sticking Bush with all of the negative ramifications of her moves. That's not going to be easy. Yes, she has the media on her side in doing this, which is a big help. There are, after all, still people who argue that the Cambodian and associated SE Asian massacres incidental to US withdrawal from Vietnam caused by Nixon - not the the Congress that forced the withdrawal.

But things are not so simple this time. For example, a forced withdrawal could have huge consequences with respect to the security (even the continued existence) of at least Israel and Lebanon, even Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Those countries mean a heck of a lot more to the world and its historical dynamics than the SE Asian countries that the 1970's Dems were willing to chuck into the mouth of genocidal chaos (which is not to denigrate the horrors of the SE Asian massacres).

Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress are playing with fire on a world historical level, although I'm not sure how much they "get" that. She might understand - she seems pretty smart in some ways. Corrupt idiots in her pack such as Murtha almost certainly do not, and could do essentially limitless damage. Where the center of gravity might be is hard to tell.

On the other side, Condi and Bush clearly understand - and so do the smarter Israelis. How this all plays out in the next year is very much up in the air, in my opinion.
Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic, Robert. I'm just so impressed with the public relations effort that has given that pack idiots a congressional majority. While I agree that Pelosi is smart enough to understand that immediate withdrawal would be a political mistake, I'm afraid she thinks all she has to do is make patriotic noises and wait for the media machine to convince some more Americans that liberation of Iraq is a Bush/Republican failure that needs to be shut down. Then we'll hunker down at the border and pretend terrorism is a law enforcement problem.

I think our only hope is for a turnaround in Iraq's security situation, and there's no reason to think that with time we'd see it. But time's running out and I'm afraid Pelosi and company will eventually succeed in pulling the plug.
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