Monday, April 09, 2007

Dem Iraq Moves: From Layup to Tossup?

Lots of good stuff to read over at Kausfiles today, but this item caught my eye:

From a Layup to a Tossup--The Dems Switch Debates: Here's something I only realized under prodding from Bob Wright on Bloggingheads: There are two obvious possible debates to have about Iraq:

Debate A: Was launching the war a good idea in 2003?

Debate B: Should we "surge" or withdraw in 2007?

Haven't the Democrats, by prosecuting their funding fight with Bush over setting a withdrawal deadline, succeeded in changing the Iraq debate from A to B? From a debate over the war to a debate over the surge? From a debate about the last four years to a debate about the last four months?

And if so, isn't that a really dumb thing for them to do? Debate A looks like a sure winner for Democrats--it's hard to see anything happening between now and 2008 that would convince a majority of voters that starting the war in the first place was a good idea. Debate B, on the other hand, looks much iffier, as the surge shows at least some signs of at least temporary success. Even if the Democrats are right on Debate B they might lose Debate B. The more the surge succeeds, the more Debate B becomes a tossup. But even with a muddled "surge" scorecard, Debate B might skew against the Democrats if the aftermath of a pullout continues to look bloody and chaotic.**

Only a strategic mastermind like N. Pelosi would shift from an argument her party is bound to win to an argument it might lose.*** It would be especially ironic if Democrats lose Debate B because voters are convinced withdrawing would produce a sectarian bloodbath--since that would ordinarily be a powerful additional argument for a Dem victory in Debate A (i.e., the decision to launch the war has been such a disaster that we can't even withdraw in good conscience--we're trapped)..

Read the whole thing. Mickey asks excellent questions.

In Ms. Pelosi's defense though, I don't see that this is an area where she really had much of a choice. After the 2006 midterms, the Democrats decided that their best course of action on Iraq was to let the President own it - lock, stock and barrel. The most they would do was to express disapproval.

Why the change? It's not because the political calculus suddenly changed; it's because the anti-war Left owns the party. And their primary interest isn't in political viability - it's in ending the war as soon as possible. Is this politically smart? Of course not. If the war is well on its way to being lost, then the shrewd thing to do would be to stand aside and let it destroy the Republican party. But MoveOn and the rest of the Left insisted on a strong stance by Democrats to end the war. Was that a reaction to the President's move to the surge? Maybe, but that probably doesn't matter. Pelosi had to either change course or lose a lot of support.

And it's not as if Nancy Pelosi is the only one. Harry Reid has executed the same 180 - to the point where he too, now supports cutting off funds on a date certain. And notwithstanding Senate procedures, there's actually a chance that Harry Reid's evolving view could cost him his majority - if Joe Lieberman disagrees strongly enough. Is Harry Reid more politically clumsy than Nancy Pelosi?

Further, when the Iraq supplemental appropriations bill teetered on the edge of passing the House, what pushed it over the edge? (OK, pork - but that's not all). It was the endorsement of, which suddenly led members of the Progressive Caucus to switch from opposition to support. And MoveOn endorsed the bill only because they became convinced that this was the best option available for ending the war.

So while I'm quick to criticize Nancy Pelosi when it's deserved, this isn't entirely a case of her tossing away political advantage. On issues of war and peace, the Democratic party is a subsidiary of the anti-war Left. In the long run, I think that's terrible for them - politically. But it's hard for the junkie to reject the needle.

Update: I see from watching the Mickey/Bob bloggingheads segment that Mickey touches upon this possibility.

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