Friday, June 22, 2007

Democratic Infighting on Iraq Getting Ugly

Some analysts argue that Congressional Democrats have demonstrated political brilliance with their single-minded focus on ending the US military operation in Iraq. Democrats have relentlessly criticized the administration and Congressional Republicans, and have refused to actually use the power of the purse to end the conflict.

According to the House Appropriations Committee, Democrats had to go back on their promises on earmark reform because they were too busy working on Iraq. And the focus on Iraq has contributed to the inability of Congress to pass major legislation on other important issues. Privately, moderate Democrats and Freshmen grumble about their conference's failure to make progress on important issues.

But while the focus on Iraq may not be pretty, it's at least paying off to the tune of a 14 percent confidence rating, right? How can critics like me argue with such success?

I'd just point out that while Democrats bask in the public adulation, looks like their decision to start another ineffectual debate on Iraq has led to more nasty internecine warfare:

In an internecine skirmish over control of Democrats’ anti-war message, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) yesterday accused Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) of misrepresenting his plan for withdrawal from Iraq...

“Senator Levin knows full well that the plan I introduced … would end funding for the war in Iraq only after our brave troops have been safely redeployed out of Iraq,” Feingold said, labeling Levin’s portrayal of his plan as disingenuous...

Feingold did not let up late yesterday. On liberal-leaning pundit Ed Schultz’s radio show, he tagged Levin a flip-flopper for voting against a binding timeline for withdrawal from Iraq in summer 2006 before supporting it this year.

Meanwhile, a slew of liberal bloggers blasted Levin for suggesting that Congress should continue paying for the war until President Bush heeds calls to withdraw.

“Despite Levin’s flip-flop today in now supporting a redeployment timeline, his capitulation on the 2008 Defense Authorization bill only proves why he is not the man to force a change in Bush’s Iraq policy,” Steve Soto wrote on the Left Coaster blog.

Several singled out Levin’s decision to quote former President Lincoln in discussing the challenge lawmakers face on Iraq.

“There are no pretty words to describe what Levin has done here — he has disingenuously and cravenly used Abraham Lincoln to defend his actions,” Big Tent Democrat wrote on the popular liberal blog TalkLeft...

Harry Reid conceded a week ago that Democrats had unwisely raised the hopes of their core supporters that they could end the war, and suffered as a result. He might also have noted that the decision to drag out the debate has divided Democrats more than it has the Republicans.

Do the Democrats think that by debating this again, Republicans will suffer more from an association with the war? That's not very likely. It's pretty clear that they favor a reassessment of the surge and the mission in September; are they going to shift now?

The debate will however, give commentators the opportunity to point out that Democrats could have ended the conflict if they chose to do so. It will engender more anger from the base against Democrats like Levin. (Who knows -- maybe they can drive him out of the caucus like Lieberman.) And it will raise the hopes of the Left that this time the Democrats will accomplish something.

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