Thursday, 26 April 2007

Democrats wasting time with Iraq politiking?

Good symbolism on an issue (Iraq) the White House thought it was the only American political power in control of, but it's now time for the Democrats to move on...

AP via Guardian:

A defiant Democratic-controlled Senate passed legislation Thursday that would require the start of troop withdrawals from Iraq by Oct. 1, propelling Congress toward a historic veto showdown with President Bush on the war.

At the White House, the president immediately promised a veto.
...
The 51-46 vote was largely along party lines, and like House passage of the same bill a day earlier, fell far short of the two-thirds margin needed to overturn the president's threatened veto. Nevertheless, the legislation is the first binding challenge on the war that Democrats have managed to send to Bush since they reclaimed control of both houses of Congress in January.
...
The $124.2 billion bill requires troop withdrawals to begin Oct. 1, or sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks. The House passed the measure Wednesday by a 218-208 vote.


The Democrats have already reached enough benchmarks as far as Iraq war political symbolism goes, isn’t it time to call it a day? Everyone knows the bill requiring withdrawal is going to get vetoed by President Bush. Why not work with the president on issues like alternative energy and immigration, issues the Democrats and president can agree on and accomplish things on, instead of just pushing a legislative agenda only to show Bush what he already must know: the Iraq war effort is going badly and many Americans — Republicans included — are now against it. Executive v. legislature isn't going anywhere also.

I like debate, especially on an issue such as Iraq, but an open debate this is not. It has been muddled by partisan politics, as usual, and the Democrats are not acting that much mature than their Republican predecessors.

Pelosi had her 100 hours of progress and political limelight in the House, but the Dems apparently did not plan much else useful after their initial entrance to office with the exception of political maneuvers: challenging the White House on Iraq and investigating the executive branch’s misdeeds. All together neither of those major actions have been very useful, and real progress needs to be made on issues dealing less with political props and more with bettering America, its people, and the world.

Even on issues the White House and Congress do not agree on — health care, climate change, bioresearch, education, judicial reform, etc. — there can still be compromises, and progress, made. I do not think either branch of the government is out to hurt the American people; I doubt Bush has a strong vendetta against blacks and I doubt the Democrats do not 'support the troops'. However I doubt both party’s abilities to accomplish anything other than filling the political vacuum with baseless political rhetoric, and a bunch of symbolic chess moves on Iraq — moves that are, in Congress' case, only symbolic.

While the White House’s power needs to be checked and its behavior put in line, Congress needs reforms of its own: basic ethics, campaign financing, limit on pork-barrel spending, an end to tacking on unrelated amendments to bills in order to affect — or rather, exploit — the process, and the streamlining of the process, making it more transparent to the people so they can not just cluelessly watch on the sidelines but take action. But knowing this is politics, especially American politics, concessions must be made by all sides. I think this administration’s handling of the Iraq war has been despicable, but little good comes from wasting valuable time and political capitol on an issue that Congress can frankly, in the end, do little about.

Thus far, the president runs the war game, and as nice as it is that that status quo seems to be changing (a political surge?), the Democrats could be doing better things with their majority. They were supposedly elected back in November because of Iraq, now it is time to stop rubbing Iraq in the administration’s face, and start taking action on other issues. Of course Iraq is a major issue, but the president, for better or for worse, gets the final say. He has the veto power over Congress and the Democrats do not have nearly enough votes to override that veto. The Dems should either find a new road to fixing Iraq policy — circumventing the White House, in a way — or put the troop matter on the sidelines and focus on something they can accomplish.

Coincidentally, I am not the only one describing this latest string of questionable, if hasty, Congressional moves on Iraq as 'politiking', the Iraqi foreign minister thinks so too.

As far as investigating pre-war intelligence goes (see the recent Congressional subpoena of Condi Rice), there is no use picking open old wounds. The investigation should continue, but there should also be a focus on, as I said, issues on which real progress can be made. The whole Iraq issue might now even bite back at the Democrats in the 2008 election, contrary to what they believe, because the White House does have more popularity with and respect from the people than Congress. No doubt, however, Iraq will play a large role in the election, but that will not be the only issue, which the Democrats need to grasp.

My message to the Democrats: the honeymoon is well over, you’ve proved your point on Iraq, the people get it, the administration gets it; its alright to continue, but focus on more pressing, realistic topics at hand — and stop acting like your majority will last forever. As Congress locks horns with the Bush administration on Iraq, with gridlock galore, other issues are ignored.

Bottom line: Bush will veto this new bill; and then what?

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