Democrats: Walking the Iraq Tightrope
Jan 17, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Democrats won the recent elections. No doubt about that. Now they have to produce, especially on Iraq, the apparent number one concern of the disenchanted electorate. Now that they have some real power, can they actually create any significant change in direction? If so, can they do so without sharing blame for the inevitable consequences of this debacle? It’s a tall order.

During a recent tennis match we were leading a set 5-0, when I overheard a surprising piece of encouragement from one of our opponents to his partner. “We’ve got them exactly where we want them. The pressure’s on them.” At first I thought, “Huh? He really had to dig deep to find something positive to say.” Then I felt a small twinge, as I got in touch with the piece of truth in his words.

I realized I felt pressure. How often do we have this opportunity? These guys are bound to get going at some point. Those reactions affected our playing, and we lost a couple of games, though we did ultimately win the set. We finally got back on track – by forgetting our lead and playing the way we did to get it in the first place.

The Democrats are in a strong political position as a result of the recent elections. It may not be the equivalent of 5-0. After all, the presidency is a powerful position, as we’ll clearly see, as this drama plays out. But I’m sure it probably feels like it to some Dems, after so long in the political wilderness. Recent political gains aside, in some areas – Iraq most particularly – the pressure is on them.

People are expecting results from the outcome of recent elections. Democrats told the people to vote for their candidates if they were fed up and wanted change. Apparently they were and they did. What now? Iraq is clearly the president’s project and legacy, but the ball is now in the Democrats’ court to do something, unfair as that may seem constitutionally and politically.

Many Democrats see stopping the president from increasing troop levels as their patriotic duty, even if that requires cutting off funds for the war, a difficult political move. Democratic leaders have talked about requiring the president to distinguish between funds to support the current troops and funds to pay for the planned increase. Wouldn’t that be convenient?

Now it seems the administration is planning on moving ahead with the troop increases, using all currently available funds, even if those funds are spent at a higher burn rate than previously anticipated. At some point, estimated to be in several months, the funds for the Iraq war will be used up, including those supporting the troops. Your move, Nancy.

The most difficult Democratic scenario may actually arise if the Democrats are successful at forcing a change. As the Chinese are famous for saying (whether they actually say it or not), “Be careful what you wish for.” Imagine the Democrats successfully blocking an increase in American troops, followed soon after by a collapse of the Iraqi government.

That juicy scenario might be enough to bring Karl Rove out of hiding. How long might the “Who lost Iraq?” battle stay with us? The Vietnam version isn’t over yet. The Republicans don’t need to prove that it was the Democrats’ fault, only inspire plausible doubt in the minds of voters, many looking desperately for ways to let the party of national security off the hook.

Many voters, given the complexity of these issues, and their distaste for deep exploration, perhaps akin to the president’s own, have a tendency to lump the political folks together, given any excuse. It’s much simpler than becoming familiar with the tedious details.

The Democrats must find a way to show leadership – to use their influence to bring a dose of rationality to this misguided obsession, while avoiding unfair association with the inevitable consequences of the administration’s decisions and incredible errors, over the last five years and continuing to this day. To do this they need to play their own game and avoid being pushed into over-caution, complacency or impatient overshooting, in their desire to wrap up this particular set before it gets away.

©2007 Northstars Writers Group
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