Monday, April 30, 2007

Bush Risks Severe Political Consequences for GOP With Veto of Troop-Withdrawal Bill

President's Rejection of a Timetable for a U.S. Pullout From Iraq Openly Defies the Will of a 60 Percent Majority of the American People -- and Endangers Republicans' Prospects for the 2008 Election

Photo

President Bush gestures while delivering the commencement address Saturday at Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida. His vow to "never accept" a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq flies in the face of overwhelming public opinion against the war and could end up costing him what little credibility and political capital he has left. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

By Skeeter Sanders

A fierce political battle over a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress tying further funding of the Iraq war to a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq heads toward critical mass this week as President Bush prepares to make good on his repeated threats to veto it -- perhaps as early as tomorrow (Tuesday).

The Senate on Friday gave final congressional approval of a bill to pump another $124 billion in funds for the war, but which contains a requirement for the president to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq by October 1 -- when the new federal fiscal year begins -- and to have the withdrawal completed by the end of March, 2008.

Bush has repeatedly threatened to veto the measure -- and vowed yet again in his weekly radio address on Saturday that he will "never accept" a timetable for withdrawal. He's even refusing to accept a compromise bill that would impose punitive measures against the Iraqi government if it fails to meet certain benchmarks for progress, according to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

To do so, she said, would restrain the abilities of General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq."That's the problem with having so-called consequences," Rice said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Bullheaded Bush Unwilling to Face Reality on Iraq

Yet the president is too stubborn to realize that by vetoing the bill, he seriously risks cutting off his nose to spite his face politically, by openly defying the clear mandate the voters gave to congressional Democrats last November to bring our troops home from Iraq. He's too stubborn to realize that he's risking the loss of what little credibility and political capital he has left.

And that could have severe political consequences for Republicans in the 2008 election.

As this blogger noted in this space last summer, Bush has proven himself to be hopelessly out of touch with reality on Iraq. He has bullheadedly refused to admit what everybody else in Washington -- and the vast majority of the American people -- already knows: that Iraq is in the throes of a bloody sectarian civil war pitting Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims against each other.

Just this past weekend, a car bomb exploded in the Shiite holy city of Karbala as the streets were packed with people heading for evening prayers, killing at least 58 people and wounding scores more near some of the country's most sacred Shiite shrines.

The attack by Sunni insurgents, which occurred two weeks after 47 people were killed and 224 were wounded in a car bombing in the same area on April 14, was aimed at killing as many Shiite worshippers as possible.

U.S. Army Officer Rips Iraq War Strategy as 'Repeat of Vietnam Mistakes'

Just how bad has the U.S. war effort in Iraq gone? So bad that it's come under extraordinarily scathing public criticism by a senior -- and serving -- U.S. Army officer.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling accused the Pentagon brass of failing to properly prepare their troops and deliberately misled Congress about the resources needed to successfully pursue the war.

Writing in the Armed Forces Journal, a sister publication of the Military Times newspapers, Yingling accused the Pentagon of having committed the same strategic mistakes that a previous generation of military officers made during the Vietnam War -- and that as a result of those repeated mistakes, the U.S. now faces defeat in Iraq.

Yingling, the deputy commander of the Army's Third Armored Calvary Regiment, wrote that, "For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces, and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of the security conditions in Iraq."

Such scathing public criticism from an officer still serving in the U.S. military is extremely rare and may reflect a growing dissatisfaction with the war among the troops serving there. "The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship," Yingling wrote.

The independent Military Times newspapers, which serve the nation's armed forces personnel, made front-page news last November by publishing an editorial on the weekend before the election calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld subsequently stepped down -- some conservatives insist he was fired -- the day after the Democrats won control of Congress.

In Face of Mounting Opposition, White House Sinks Into Bunker Mentality

That a bunker mentality has sunk in at the Bush White House as opposition to the war has intensified is by now beyond doubt -- a circle-the-wagons mentality similar to that which set in during the final days of Richard Nixon's presidency in 1974 as it was being consumed by the Watergate scandal.

How else can you explain the president's stubborn insistence on attaining an increasingly imaginary "victory" in Iraq -- despite opinion poll after opinion poll after opinion poll showing a 56 to 60 percent majority of the American people solidly supporting a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal?

How else can you explain a president adamantly insisting on continued congressional funding for the war carte blanche -- no strings attached -- despite the fact that his party lost control of Congress precisely because it was a rubber stamp for his deeply unpopular war policies?

Of course, there's also the growing scandal over the controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys for allegedly partisan political reasons, which is taking on more and more the flavor of Watergate in its own right (But that's a subject for a separate, upcoming commentary in this space).

Democrats Must Stand Firm and Put the Brakes on the War

If Bush thinks that the Democrats are going to back down and give him a "clean" Iraq war-funding bill without a troop-withdrawal plan, then he's living in another reality. With the Democrats in firm control of the House, this blogger seriously doubts that such a bill would pass.

Congressional sources have told The 'Skeeter Bites Report that as many as 30 House Democrats who voted in favor of the Iraq funding bill containing the troop-withdrawal timetable would likely do an about-face and vote against any similar measure without it -- putting its chances for passage in serious jeopardy.

And even if a "clean" bill did succeed in the House, the sources said, as many as three or four senators who oppose the war -- all of them from the heavily Democratic Northeast and none of whom are up for re-election until 2010 at the earliest -- could launch a filibuster to block it. It's not known if Senate supporters of the war could muster the 60 votes necessary to cut off such a filibuster.

Bush's Worst Enemy: The 2008 Political Calendar

The president continues to ignore the reality that while he doesn't have to face the voters again, his fellow Republicans in Congress do -- and the voters, whose opposition to the war has only intensified since last November's election, are in no mood to see the war continue beyond the constitutionally-mandated end of Bush's tenure on January 20, 2009.

Anti-war Democrats believe that over the next few months, Bush's Republican support for the war -- already depleted by the GOP's loss of control of Congress -- will erode even further as the 2008 election cycle draws closer.

With many Republicans -- especially in the Senate -- facing increasingly uphill re-election campaigns while the war drags on, Democrats believe they will eventually win more GOP support for withdrawing U.S. troops.

Some Republicans up for re-election next year already are wavering. Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-Missouri) abstained on the war-funding bill after opposing a Democratic draft in March. She said she could neither abide by the way the war is being run, nor by what she said was a bill that "politicizes" the process of funding the troops.

Democrats plan to turn up the heat even higher on the GOP by sending the war-funding-with-troop-withdrawal bill to the president tomorrow (Tuesday) -- the fourth anniversary of Bush's speech aboard an aircraft carrier declaring the "end to major combat operations" in Iraq.

To remind Americans of the anniversary, the Democratic National Committee and independent groups, including MoveOn.org, plan to air television ads showing the now-infamous footage of Bush aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lincoln that had been decorated with a "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Face it, Mr. President. You cannot have it your way on the Iraq war anymore. The voters have spoken. You're a lame duck. Deal with it and start the process of bringing our troops home -- or else see the GOP doomed to remain the minority party for a long time to come.

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Volume II, Number 22
Copyright 2007, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.







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