March 13, 2007


Democrats Struggle To Make Peace (Holly Yeager, 3/13/07, The American Prospect)

The difficulties in grappling with both the imperative to take action and the desire to avoid futile gestures have clearly taken a toll. In an interview last week with The Hill, Obey complained that "liberal groups" had failed to explain the supplemental to their members and reported that anti-war protesters had been "sitting in" at his district office. (Some were arrested after they refused to leave at the end of the work day.) Long negotiations within the Democratic caucus were surely another factor in his short fuse.

Those negotiations continue. For while House Democrats mustered the strength to unveil the supplemental, and won national headlines for the effort, it is far from clear that they have the votes to pass it. In the Senate, the prospects of passing any measure that contains a fixed date for withdrawal are even dimmer. Harry Reid has moved cautiously, with the Senate version of the supplemental setting a goal of the withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces by the end of March 2008, but permitting some U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for force protection and the training of Iraqi forces.

In the House, there is plenty of time before the matter comes to a vote, expected next week. But the divisions are real, and 16 defections would be enough to defeat the bill. Some liberal members of the caucus, such as Sheila Jackson Lee and Lynn Woolsey -- closer to the Marine mom and the Occupation Project, which captured the encounter on tape -- want war funds to be spent only on withdrawing troops and training Iraqis. Some moderate and conservative Democrats, including Jim Cooper and Allen Boyd, dislike the fixed deadline, and worry about constraining the power of the commander-in-chief with language prohibiting an attack on Iran.

It all adds up to a close vote, even if a handful of Republicans like Walter Jones and Chris Shays support the supplemental. Which is why Obey's plea that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good needs to be heard. No, the message shouldn't be shouted in a hallway with a camera running. But if the Democratic leadership fails to win support for its latest plan, it will have some explaining to do. The alternative -- with sit-ins and shouts, all narrated by Fox -- is not a pleasant option.

Actually, the division between those who seek to extend liberty and those defending one ism after another is precisely the war between the good and the perfect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 13, 2007 7:31 AM
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