Ryan Grim has a smart story up at the Politico about the undersung political defeat of 2007: the routing of anti-war activists. If you'd said in January 2007 that Congress would fully fund the Iraq War, that there would be no timelines, and that a pro-war group fronted by Ari Fleischer would humiliate MoveOn… well, you'd be smarter than me.
In recognition of hard political reality, the groups instead will lower their sights and push for legislation to prevent President Bush from entering into a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could keep significant numbers of troops in Iraq for years to come.
The groups believe this switch in strategy can draw contrasts with Republicans that will help Democrats gain ground in November and bring the votes to pass more dramatic measures. But it is a long way from the early months of 2007, when Democrats were freshly in power and momentum for a dramatic shift in Iraq policy seemed overpowering.
"There was a consensus that last year was not productive," John Isaacs, executive director of Council for a Livable World, said of a meeting attended by a coalition of anti-war groups last week. "Our expectations were dashed."
The anti-war movement also thinks it has a winning argument when it comes to the length of time Americans are willing to see U.S. forces in Iraq. Roughly half of Americans recently surveyed by CBS News want most U.S. troops out within a year, and more than half think it was a mistake to invade in the first place. Every Democratic candidate for president has promised to withdraw almost all troops from Iraq within the first year of his or her presidency.
I think the debate will shift, but not exactly like this. There's a 50 percent chance the GOP will nominate a candidate who made his comeback on the impression that the surge was working, and by the time the primaries are over we'll get a sense of whether the surge's gains can be sustained.