Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More legislative disgrace

The Senate wants a timetable too.


UPDATE: Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reacts. Some excerpts:

Yesterday’s vote was potentially devastating to our mission in Iraq because telling the enemy the exact date you plan to leave is the surest way to guarantee defeat. It tells them only to rest, refit, and re-plan until the date the Democrat Congress circled on a calendar for American forces to give up and leave. A war spending bill that includes such a date is no war spending bill at all — it’s a prolonged and costly notice of surrender.

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The Senate vote, like a similar vote in the House of Representatives last week, was also a memo to our friends. Millions of brave Iraqis have dared to stand with us because we promised to stand with them until they were secure. The Senate reneged on that promise last night, telling these men and women we’ve changed our minds and that we now intend to leave them on their own regardless of the consequences. It is indeed ironic, as Senator Lieberman has noted, that many of those who would now turn their backs on Iraqis, exposing them to slaughter, are the very ones who rightly call on the U.S. to help oppressed peoples in Darfur and elsewhere around the world.

Most Democrats were in agreement until recently on the foolishness of setting a surrender date. Senator Clinton told the Village Voice in early 2005 that she didn’t think “you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you.” And just last June, Senator Obama made clear he agreed with her at least on this point. “A hard and fast, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal,” he said, “offers our commanders in the field … insufficient flexibility ...”

Why have Democrats flipped on the wisdom of setting a date for withdrawal? They haven’t. The foolishness of timelines is beyond dispute. Yesterday’s vote was instead a message to the president that Democrats will defy him at every turn on a war they already think is lost. Yet the only ones directly affected in the short term by such defiance are American soldiers in Iraq and their families here at home. By forcing a presidential veto and delaying the shipment of supplies, they’re the ones who lose.

All of which would be an excellent lesson in why the Framers placed the power of conducting a war into the hands of a single commander-in-chief rather than 535 members of Congress. Yesterday’s vote sent a message, but not to President Bush. It’s a message to our enemies that the U.S. Senate has given up on this fight. It’s a message to our friends that their protection is no longer a priority. And it’s a message to our soldiers that we’ll continue to equip them for a war we’ve already decided is lost.

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