Democrats And Iraq, Cont'd

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THE PLANK JANUARY 7, 2007

Democrats And Iraq, Cont'd

Democrats are still figuring out what leverage they can and will exert to prevent George W. Bush from "escalating" the war in Iraq. On CBS today Nancy Pelosi broke new ground by suggesting that the House might pass legislation blocking funding for any additional troops in Baghdad. It's still not at all clear to me whether this is practically doable, leaving aside the fact that it might not pass the Senate and would never survive a veto.

Nor was it the "Meet the Press" talking point of Joe Biden (whose verbal tics we'll stop teasing for a moment here):

MR. RUSSERT: ...there's really little Democrats can do. Why not cut off funding for the war?
SEN. BIDEN: I've been there, Tim. You can't do it.
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
SEN. BIDEN: You can't do it. It's-what-because it made sense in the Constitution when you said you could cut off funding when you had no standing army. We have a standing army with a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars. You can't go in and, like a tinker toy, and play around and say, "You can't spend the money on this piece and this piece and"-he-able-he'll be able to keep those troops there forever constitutionally if he wants to.
MR. RUSSERT: Why not have legislation then that would cap the number of troops in Iraq?
SEN. BIDEN: Because it's very difficult to-it's constitutionally questionable whether or not you can do that. I think it is unconstitutional to say, "We're going to tell you you can go, but we're going to micromanage the war." When we wrote the Constitution, the intention was to give the commander in chief the authority how to use the forces, when you authorize them, to be able to use the forces. And so... the only way this is going to change, Tim... is when a majority of Lindsey's colleagues, Republicans, say to the president, "Mr. President, enough. We are not going to support you any more," that's when the president will begin to change his policy.

To me, that last point is the Democrats' best bet for ending the war: Using their new bully pulpit to drive public opinion, pressuring ever more Congressional Republicans into abandonment of their president, leaving him truly isolated.

--Michael Crowley

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