Democrats will spend the next 24 hours acting out what their staffers have referred to as a “publicity stunt.”
While Republicans focus on the dangers posed by al Qaeda in Iraq, our long-term national-security interests in the Persian Gulf, and the warnings that the United Nations and the Baker-Hamilton Commission are issuing on the potential consequences of withdrawal, Democrats will spend the next 24 hours acting out what their staffers have referred to as a “publicity stunt.” They are staging a modern-day version of Jimmy Stewart’s round-the-clock filibuster from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to wear down opponents of a firm deadline for withdrawal. The only problem: They are, in effect, filibustering their own bill.
For people who might be scratching their heads, a little background. Yesterday Republicans asked that a 60-vote threshold be used for a vote on the Levin Amendment to the defense-authorization bill. The Levin Amendment is a controversial proposal calling for withdrawal from Iraq by April, and the standard procedure for amendments like it has always been the 60-vote threshold. As the Democratic majority leader said earlier this year: “In the Senate it’s always been the case you need 60 votes.”
So why the theatrics? Democrats are feeling the heat from the antiwar base that gave them the majority in both Houses of Congress last November.
Meanwhile, President Bush offered his own change of course. He announced a new Iraq strategy in January to deploy several additional brigades to Baghdad and battalions to Anbar province. By securing the capital, he said, American and allied troops would have a good shot at tamping down sectarian violence and creating the conditions for political progress that everyone says are needed to create stability in Iraq. The president chose General David Petraeus to lead the mission, and Senate Democrats confirmed him by a unanimous vote.
The president’s new plan was devised in consultation with America’s top military commanders in Iraq and the Iraqi prime minister. And it had the backing of a co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, James Baker, who told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January that they should give the strategy a shot: “The general that you confirmed the other day, 81 to nothing, this is his idea,” Baker said of General Petraeus. “He’s the supporter of it. He’s now the commander on the ground in Iraq. Give it a chance.”
Yet despite this plea, Senate Democrats declared the surge a failure before it began. Senator Barack Obama spoke for many in his caucus when he said in January, “The president’s strategy will not work.” So it surprised no one that soon after confirming General Petraeus, Democrats repeatedly tried to pass a bill that would have limited the General’s mission. Their only claim to success was a bill that funded the mission they claimed to oppose. And even that took more than three months to pass before being vetoed by the president because of language that set a date for withdrawal.
In response to the veto, Democrats resubmitted the vetoed funding bill without the timeline, infuriating their antiwar base and setting up this week’s debate — and the threat of a bad Jimmy Stewart impersonation. Not coincidentally, today’s stunt was announced in conjunction with an antiwar protest on the Capitol grounds.
The real question, of course, is not who’s in the driver’s seat of the Democratic strategy for Iraq. It’s why Democrats would allow themselves to pull a self-described publicity stunt like this in the first place on an issue as serious as the war. Democrats seem to have forgotten that they voted 80 to 14 to give General Petraeus until September to report on the strategy they sent him to Iraq to complete. That was the framework we agreed to, and signed into law, for the conduct of this debate. But then, they voted to send General Petraeus to Iraq even as they declared his mission a failure.
Our troops and our top military commander deserve better. At the very least they should be able to expect that we will stick with our pledge to give General Petraeus until September to report back on progress and the law which a majority of the Senate voted for in May.
This war, and its potential consequences, are too serious for anything less. Our enemies aren’t threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts.
- rollo_tomassi423Lv 61 decade agoFavorite Answer
When the Republicans wanted their judges confirmed, all they could do was scream about how they were entitled to an "up or down vote." But now when the Democrats want an up or down vote on the war, the Republicans will do anything to prevent it.
There is a majority in favor of this amendment, and it is the Republicans who are filibustering to prevent the will of the majority from taking effect.
- Noah HLv 71 decade ago
There's no good way to do undue the damage that the Bush administraton has caused by involving our country in Iraq. Like the man on the tiger, he can neither stay or dismount, while we can neither stay or leave Iraq without consequence. It's easy to be critical of the democrat's attempt to change the algebra of this war, though their ability to create a change is limited. Realistically this president has the last word, and his 'word' is stay at what ever cost in lives, limbs and treasure. George Bush, not the democrats and their few republican allies are the problem. The president's junta of advisors are caught up in a dreamworld of wistful thinking. Through their 'Ministry of Truth', FOX and the right wing talk shows they encourage people like the person who posted this 'question' to remain true believers. Belief is a wonderful thing, but it's not a substitute for reality, and the reality is that Iraq is lost to a military solution no matter how many years we stay. Iraq is destroyed and if we continue to allow this war to go on, the US will destroy itself and be no safer for the effort.
- Free To Be MeLv 61 decade ago
Unfortunately, most of Americans will either be oblivious or unwilling to find out what's really going on, and so the dems just may come off looking like heroes to their supporters in the media, who will try to manipulate public opinion in the dems' favor.
This is their objective, with the coming presidential election in mind.
I am so glad that we have a president who acts on the dictates of his conscience, rather than the latest public opinion poll! If the dems even succeed in this publicity stunt, he will veto again.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
The 14% of Americans who have confidence in the Dem congress may disagree with you.
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- nilesladLv 61 decade ago
Even their supporters are realizing the Congress they elected in November to end the war are just an new class of spineless, posturing wimps.
- GwendolynLv 44 years ago
- Deep ThoughtLv 51 decade ago
I'm betting staffers sit in the Senate chamber, Senators sleep in cots in their office until they choose to vote. This won't produce a thing but it'll make great headlines.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
I think it is helarious how the GOPers on here whine about the all night session yet when their people did the same thing they didn't say a peep. What hypocrites. Late night sessions are nothing new. Keep whining it will just help the Democrats in next year's election.
- Mitchell .Lv 51 decade ago
Nice speech....way to rally that 26% that agree with you.
At least it gives you something to talk about and distracts people from how incompetent the GOP has been over the last 6 years.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Yes the troops and the people of America deserve better than we are getting. I see congress numbers headed to the single digit approval rating.