Why Democrats Won't Stop the Surge, Part CXXXIV

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The Washington Post tramps the dirt down on Rep. John Murtha's plan to assign (un-meetable) caveats to further funding of U.S. operations. Short take: Murtha broke every one of Machiavelli's rules and fumbled the plan's rollout.

From the beginning, Murtha acted on his own to craft a complicated legislative strategy on the war, without consulting fellow Democrats. When he chose to roll out the details on a liberal, antiwar Web site on Feb. 15, he caught even Pelosi by surprise while infuriating Democrats from conservative districts.

Then for an entire week, as members of Congress returned home for a recess, Murtha refused to speak further. Democratic leaders failed to step into the vacuum, and Republicans relentlessly attacked a plan they called a strategy to slowly bleed the war of troops and funds. By the end of the recess, Murtha's once promising strategy was in tatters.

He reveals the plan to its enemies, let them spin it, and had no strategy for fighting back. Murtha, with all his combat cred, didn't rebut the silly charge that always cuts off this debate: that cutting off funding would "cut off the troops." Pro-war, pro-surge politicians are in a very unpopular stance, so they bolster that position by painting the picture of Congress literally snatching body armor and rifles away from them as they roast in the desert. And… Murtha doesn't argue. But the Post buries the lede:

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), another co-chairman who sits on the Appropriations Committee, is likely to try to tie the war spending bill to legislation demanding a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by a date certain, with the bill's money available only for the safe withdrawal of the troops.

Such legislation was precisely what Murtha hoped to head off with his recent Internet appearance, said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who helped connect him with MoveCongress.org. And Moran still believes the appearance ultimately will work to the Democrats' favor. "The cognoscenti is upset because he's not under their control," Moran said. "They would prefer he release his plan to a think tank, but he decided he wanted to communicate directly. He doesn't trust the way the media filters what he says and does. He understands the power of being able to communicate."

I'm not going to say Moran is one of the stupidest chair-fillers in Congress. I will merely point out that he has a reverse Midas touch and anyone who follows his strategies is going to come away with some mighty weak strategies.

In related news, did anyone else know former Libertarian presidential candidate Aaron Russo was a 9/11 Truther?

I took a tour of surge-era DC a few weeks ago.

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  1. re russo: from freedom to fascism is almost, kinda, sorta, almost worth watching. kinda. it’s probably good for people who don’t read too much.

  2. Where were these conspiracy experts after April 19, 1995?

  3. The Democrats are in a very difficult political position. They could end the war, but then they would lose their most lucrative 2008 vote generator. They also can’t support the war, or they lose credibility on the issue.

    So basically they throw out a bunch of nonbinding resolutions, and bills-that-will-never-pass, instead of real action.

  4. I have insisted that Congress pass strong anti-terrorism legislation immediately — to provide for more than 1,000 new law enforcement personnel solely to fight terrorism; to create a domestic anti-terrorism center;

    This is about America’s future. It is about your future.

    We can do this without undermining our constitutional rights. In fact, the failure to act will undermine those rights.

    I would like to say something to [those] who believe the greatest threat to America comes not from terrorists from within our country or beyond our borders, but from our own government.

    I believe you have every right, indeed you have the responsibility, to question our government when you disagree with its policies. And I will do everything in my power to protect your right to do so. But I also know there have been lawbreakers among those who espouse your philosophy.

    The people who came to the United States to bomb the World Trade Center were wrong.

    If you say that government is in a conspiracy to take your freedom away, you are just plain wrong.

    How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on Earth live in tyranny.

    [T]here is nothing patriotic about hating your country, or pretending that you can love your country but despise your government.

  5. It would seem that the Democrats are in a similar position to the Pentagon after the fall of Baghdad – no post-victory planning in place, so they’re flailing around, trying to work out what to do next.

    Still, by allowing Bush to proceed with his “surge” they’re effectively giving him enough rope to hang himself with.

  6. Still, by allowing Bush to proceed with his “surge” they’re effectively giving him enough rope to hang himself with.

    At least you preceded that tired meme with a pretty accurate assessment of where the Dems are right now. I would add that as long as Murtha has any sort of voice for the Dems (even if it’s only on far-left blogs) the better for America, because people are going to turn on the Dems, while still remembering how corrupt and incompetent the Repubs are, and maybe some third parties might make some headway in Congressional campaigns.

    Bring on the Greens! or the WWP! or the LP! or whomever, as long as maybe the 2-parties with little difference between them lose some power.

  7. First they wanted a surge (when Bush did not) now that Bush wants a surge they do not? I wish someone in Washington would be consistent!

  8. I’m glad Murtha’s plan got shot down. It was a dishonest way to draw down the troop levels and it played right into the charge that the Democratic Congress is trying to sabotage the war through micromanaging…which is exactly what his plan was.

    Meanwhile, Reid and other senators are proposing doing the honest thing: replacing the 2002 authorization with a resolution that dictates future war policy. That’s exactly the sort of thing Congress should be doing.

  9. BTW, Russo may have some ideas that are difficult to swallow, but Freedom to Fascism is still a must watch video. I wish everyone could be forced to see it (how unlibertarian of me!) just to possibly get them to question, even for a second, their preconceptions. I don’t even agree with everything in the movie, but there’s enough in there that should cause people to demand more politicians like Ron Paul, and less politicians like Tom Delay and Nancy Pelosi.

  10. Wow, Russo is pretty simple-minded and creepy. I’m beginning to realize that libertarianism is really a left-wing movement.

  11. The democrats are looking for a way to throw a bone to the disgruntled-with-the-Iraq clusterfuck voter base that awarded them the legislative majority, but they’re also looking to preserve the ability of the executive branch, using hype and fraud, to send our military off on imperial style adventures every so often.

    The dems could turn this into a political free fire zone and profit handsomely.
    Start calling the Bush league’s sophmoronic run up to the invasion/occupation of Iraq a “conspiracy to defraud the United States”.

    Like this (sorta):

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=143205

    our politicians have invested so much truly bipartisan effort toward furthering the imperial drift of executive power that neither side is willing to pull the trigger and call criminal acts criminal.

    That’s why we get half-measure, non-binding, hand wringing, vaporware bullshit in the place of meaningful debate on meaningful legislation

  12. Ed,

    Feel free to name some right-wing politicians or pundits who aren’t “simple-minded and creepy”.

  13. That is to say, in order to appeal to a certain base, you need to keep your ideas simple and risk offending those who don’t agree with your viewpoint. I’d take “simple-minded and creepy” over “willing to take any position at any time, depending on to whom I am speaking”.

  14. jf,

    “I would add that as long as Murtha has any sort of voice for the Dems (even if it’s only on far-left blogs) the better for America, because people are going to turn on the Dems…

    Tell the truth – you were saying exactly the same thing about Murtha in 2005, when he first came out in favor of ending the war. Right?

    Antarctic Penguin,

    I dare you to find a quote from a Congressional Democrat not named Lieberman calling for a surge.

  15. jf

    I don’t know anymore what’s righ-wing and what’s left-wing, but lots of political commentators aren’t either simple-minded or creepy. Reason writers, for example, are for the most part sophisticated and intelligent. Chuck Hagel is a Republican whose intelligence and honesty I respect. Whatever you think of Bill Clinton, he’s intelligent and has a good grasp of the issues. I like Orak Obama

  16. Joe:

    I dare you to find a quote from a Congressional Democrat not named Lieberman calling for a surge.

    As I’m sure you are well aware, a substantial portion of Congressional Democrats spent 2 years, give or take, criticizing the Administration for not having enough troops in Iraq. This criticism implies that they favored sending more troops. In other words, they were in favor of “a surge”, or something similar.

  17. Adam,

    No, it does not. Recognizing that more troops were needed to keep Iraq from falling apart is not the same thing as saying that it is a good idea to send more troops now that it has fallen apart. That ship has sailed.

    I’ve seen many Democrats say, from early 2003 until prior to the civil war broke out in 2005, that we didn’t have enough troops to stabilize the country. That is not remotely the same thing as saying that they should be sent now.

  18. Joe, the bottom line is that they spent two years being critical of too few troops in Iraq and now are being critical of too many. You can nuance that by claiming that “ship has sailed”, but to many of us it simply looks like political contrarianism. And, if you were honest, you might see that it is. None of which should be taken as implying I support Bush&Co.

  19. All of these theories about why the Democrats allegedly don’t want to stop the war ignore the fact that the Democrats have supplied majority support to every anti-surge, anti-escalation bill that has come up. The reason the Democrats won’t stop the surge is because the Republicans can maintain a filibuster in the Senate.

    They might not be able to do so in six months to a year, but by then, the surge will we well underway, and it will be too late to stop.

    The surge is the immediate story, but the real fight isn’t over little tactical shifts like whether to put a few more troops into Baghdad. The Biden bill gets at the real meat of the issue – what is our purpose, our objective, our reason for being there? Out of that comes the seeds of our strategy. Six months from now, as the civil war escalates and the goverment’s security forces are even more openly waging war against their Sunni countrymen, the current strategy of fighting on behalf of that government in the hope that it will bring in a liberal, democratic order is going to be as thoroughly rejected in Washington as it has been in the rest of the country. That is when the Congress can ram a change of plans down the White House’s throats.

  20. Adam,

    You can acknowledge that the situation is different now than in April 2003, or not. No matter to me.

  21. Hey Weigel, stop shilling for the Dems!

  22. In related news, did anyone else know former Libertarian presidential candidate Aaron Russo was a 9/11 Truther?

    Oy vey. Are there ANY free-market-on-economics and libertarian-on-social-issues individuals in politics who AREN’T fucking lunatics???

    I’ll just chalk this up as reason #1453 for why this small-l-libertarian no longer votes for the LP.

  23. Are there ANY free-market-on-economics and libertarian-on-social-issues individuals in politics who AREN’T fucking lunatics???

    Thanks, Akira. I couldn’t quite formulate the question.

  24. “Parliament of Whores”. Hardly, a whore gives satisfaction, the price is negotiated up front and the exchange is voluntary. I make a motion to replace Congress with some Ladies of the Evening.

  25. Seconded! May I add a recommendation for a roll call vote?

  26. Man, I remember when Jim Moran was just the idiot mayor of Alexandria, VA.

    -jcr

  27. “Parliament of Whores”. Hardly, a whore gives satisfaction, the price is negotiated up front and the exchange is voluntary. I make a motion to replace Congress with some Ladies of the Evening.

    “Pornocracy” is the technical term. And whores also make their living through honest work, which is more than can be said for many congressmen.

    If Bushie attacks Iran (which is certainly possible) then the situation in Iraq will become much more difficult, with large numbers of Shiite militia ambushing Americans at every opportunity. In fact, I’ve chosen my screen name in honour of Bush should he decide on this option.

  28. You can nuance that by claiming that “ship has sailed”, but to many of us it simply looks like political contrarianism.

    Many of you are fucking idiots.

  29. Tell the truth – you were saying exactly the same thing about Murtha in 2005, when he first came out in favor of ending the war. Right?

    Congratulations, joe. You’ve demonstrated that your ignorance and arrogance are both boundless. Murtha in 2005 had the air of gravitas around him, as a vet and as someone passionate about ending this war.

    Today, he sounds like a nitwit who should be locked up before he hurts himself.

  30. Lord knows no one was saying that about Murtha two years ago. No way. He got such a respectful hearing.

  31. Still, by allowing Bush to proceed with his “surge” they’re effectively giving him enough rope to hang himself with.

    Unless, of course, the current campaign actually succeeds.

    God forbid that anyone should want Iraq to put down its sectarian violence and emerge as a semi-functional nation, after all.

    And God forbid that anyone put forward a plan that actually (a) has that as its goal and (b) might succeed. I know the “get out as quick as we can” plan has neither of these to recommend it.

  32. “God forbid that anyone should want Iraq to put down its sectarian violence and emerge as a semi-functional nation, after all.”

    …and a pony.

    Casinos love people like you, R C. You can’t win if don’t play. Put it on Black 17! What’s the matter, don’t you WANT to get rich?

  33. If for nothing else, I respect the way, how when the Democratic party or Republican party holds power, they make the idiocy of the other party’s rule look better in comparison.

    Seriously, if you think this war is necessary to somehow guard our freedoms here several thousand miles away from Baghdad, then have the balls to stand up, transfer troops from places like Japan and Europe and start pacifying the country.

    If you think it’s a tragic waste of human life that is inspiring misery and hatred for American, then have the balls to de-fund it, political consequences be damned.

    Just stop the half-hearted B***s***

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