Being anti-war, for many Democrats is fine, so long as it remains rhetoric. Once it turns to actual legislation, the political divide becomes apparent.
One of the Democrats' chief designated vote counters, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), is actively working against the Iraq war spending bill. The leadership's senior chief deputy whip, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), spoke passionately against it on the House floor. And one of the whip organization's regional representatives, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), is implacably opposed.
The disarray in the House whipping operation ahead of tomorrow's expected vote on the bill is putting a harsh spotlight on House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who has the task of rounding up the 218 votes needed to pass the $124 billion measure, but who has not even kept his organization in line.
"There's only one test, and that will be whether we get 218 on the board on Thursday," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who predicted that Clyburn will come through with the votes...
To be sure, House Democratic leaders appear to be making progress toward securing the votes to pass a $124 billion emergency war spending bill that would establish strict readiness standards for deploying combat forces and set a firm deadline of Aug. 31, 2008, to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. Clyburn and other House Democratic leaders locked down two critical Democratic converts -- one liberal, one conservative -- yesterday.
At a closed-door gathering of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and an early opponent of the bill, announced that she had changed her position and will support it when it comes to a vote.
But it's not the arguments that are winning converts so much as the pork
House Democratic leaders are offering billions in federal funds for lawmakers' pet projects large and small to secure enough votes this week to pass an Iraq funding bill that would end the war next year.
So far, the projects -- which range from the reconstruction of New Orleans levees to the building of peanut storehouses in Georgia -- have had little impact on the tally. For a funding bill that establishes tough new readiness standards for deploying combat forces and sets an Aug. 31, 2008, deadline to bring the troops home, votes do not come cheap.
But at least a few Republicans and conservative Democrats who otherwise would vote "no" remain undecided, as they ponder whether they can leave on the table millions of dollars for constituents by opposing the $124 billion war funding bill due for a vote on Thursday.
"She hates the games the Democrats are playing," said Guy Short, chief of staff to Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), a staunch conservative who remains undecided, thanks to billions of dollars in the bill for drought relief and agriculture assistance. "But Representative Musgrave was just down in southeastern Colorado, talking to ranchers and farmers, and they desperately need this assistance."
Of course, it was the Democrats who said they were going to Washington to clean House and get pork out of politics.
And it was the Democrats who claimed they had an anti-war mandate from the people.
Clearly if you have to compromise your "principles" in order to win support for your supposed "mandate" then maybe both your principles and your mandate are just an illusion: a comforting bedtime story that keeps you from being awake all night with the thought of what the Middle East will look like engulfed in a region-wide civil war between secular dictator-states and 14th Century Islamists.
Because here's how things will play out if we leave:
Iran and Syria will support the Shi'a Islamists and Saudi Arabia and Egypt will support the Sunni Islamists to prevent Sunni's from getting slaughtered. And everyone else who desperately wants to keep their dog out of that fight will either get caught in the middle or have to choose an extremist side.
And you think we're generating more terrorists while being in Iraq? Just see what happens when we leave. Because there is no way to go but down, towards extremism.
As long as we remain, and as long as Iraq succeeds, there is a path away from extremism.
But worse than pork, and worse than the legislation is the moral spinelessness of Democrats.
Because if you believe that we are fighting an immoral war, or you believe we are losing, then your position should be to get the troops out now.
Your position should be, remove the authorization for war. Now.
What does it mean that you believe the war is wrong, but the troops should stay for another year? What kind of message does that send our troops in battle with the Islamists who think Democracy is apostasy?
And what message does it send our enemies?
Bribing lawmakers for votes on war and peace is only slightly more immoral than accepting the bribe.
And I despise you both: The bribers and the takers of bribes.