Sunday, January 27, 2008

Democrats Squandered Opportunities on Iraq

This morning's Los Angeles Times has an analysis of the Democratic congressional majority's failure to successfully challenge President Bush's war strategy in 2007:

What happened?

The answer lies partly in the slim Democratic majority and a determined Republican president.

But it was the new Democratic majority's inability to work across the aisle that ultimately ensured failure.

Like the Republicans they had replaced, senior Democrats chose confrontation over cooperation.

They squandered opportunities to work with Republicans unhappy with the president.

And, under pressure from their antiwar base, they tried to bully their rivals.

"Even now, I fail to understand how we think we can stop the war unless we bring in Republicans," said Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie, one of the liberal Democrats who challenged his party's strategy.

Democrats -- and even many Republicans -- had expected a far different result.

When GOP senators sat down for a tense luncheon in the Capitol's wood-paneled Mansfield Room last January, their party was in turmoil.

President Bush's decision to send additional troops to Iraq, combined with the party's election losses, infuriated many lawmakers. As Vice President Dick Cheney sat silently, a heated debate erupted.

Virginia Sen. John W. Warner, a white-haired veteran of two wars, rose to express deep concern that the U.S. military was caught in a civil war in Iraq. On the other side, Arizona's John McCain and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham passionately warned that retreat would spell disaster.
Let's face it: Democratic legislative failure on Iraq is a classic tale of hubris and incompetence.

Congressional leaders badly misread the public's electoral demands of November 2006. Polls repeatedly indicated not so much calls for an immediate troop withdrawal, but hopes for improvements, leading to success and an orderly handover to a sovereign Iraq over time (check back over the data, for example,
at Polling Report).

Further, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader have miserably failed the leadership test.

Pelosi - even before being sworn in - alienated powerful members of her caucus by resorted to old-fashioned machine politics on appointments, for example,
when she sought and failed to elevate Pennsylvania's John Murtha over Steny Hoyer of Maryland for the Majority Leader post.

The House has veered increasing to the left on war policy, as well, apparently afraid of alienating the (purportedly) powerful antiwar forces of the left blogosphere.

In the Senate, Harry Reid couldn't figure out how to lead the chamber, and when things weren't going his way, he simply closed off debate under the leader's prerogative. A vicious, partisan enemy of the White House, Reid has been implacably opposed to American military success,
even declaring the war lost in early 2007.

As ideological as the Democrats may be, they miserably failed to assess not just the resolve of their opposition colleagues on Capitol Hill, but of President Bush as well.

The administration has long been commited to standing firm on Iraq, and the institutional advantages enjoyed by the Republican minority in the Senate (the filibuster) meant that the White House could work with GOP members looking to avoid the albatross of a lost war heading into the 2008 general election.

As improvement on the ground in Iraq proceeded, the Democratic antiwar agenda appeared increasingly quixotic, and
even antiwar groups have recently throw in the towel on a legislative end to the war in the near term.

It should be clear that the Democratic presidential candidates cannot run on a record of competence this year. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are current members of the Democratic Senate majority. Their party's failure is their own.

in his victory speech in South Carolina last night, called for an immediate end to the war. This is a shameless appeal to the unfiltered demands of the uncleansed leftist hordes who would snatch defeat from the jaws of military victory.

The Democrats, as the last 14 months have shown, have failed the test of leadership. The primary process will be coming to an end soon, and for the Republicans - in the Democratic Party failures of 2007 - have at least one readymade argument against their opponents, and in favor of four more years of national security stewardship in Washington.