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Abercrombie might be revealing more than he intended. One question Democrats have trouble answering is what they would do if a Democratic president was conducting policy in Iraq. It was President Bill Clinton, after all, who bombed Iraq multiple times during his presidency, over the opposition of Republicans like Tom DeLay and with the support of Democrats like Richard Gephardt. It was Walter Jones, along with Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Tom Tancredo, and Dennis Kucinich, who (along with 12 other representatives) sued Clinton in 1999 for violating the 1973 War Powers Resolution. That doesn't make them saints, but it demonstrates that the Democrats are not, at their core, against foreign intervention.
That fact would be more embarrassing if the
debate over the surge was more than a kabuki show. As it stands,
with anti-interventionist Democrats sidelined by both parties, the
Republicans who only supported the war because George W. Bush asked
for it are attempting to recover their credibility. The Republican
having the best time doing so is Hagel, who voted for the original
Iraq War Resolution but took time at the Wednesday press conference
to brag that he wasn't merely signing onto Biden's and Levin's
resolution. “These two Democratic senators did not get
this Republican senator,” Hagel said. “This Republican senator got
There are areas where the Democrats are genuinely interested in checking and reversing presidential power. They are serious about striking the government's ability to spy and torture; it's hard to imagine them walking that back under President Obama or Edwards or Clinton II. But neither party is truly opposed to intervention; neither party has a majority that would deny a president the power to wage a war like Iraq. The Democrats are not an anti-war party. Sorry, voters: This Congress is not getting you out of Iraq.
David Weigel is an associate editor of