There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.That's right, the teenage occupant of the White House is holding the troops hostage along with the future of the United States.
If this were a normal political dispute, Democrats in Congress would clearly hold the upper hand: by a huge margin, Americans say they want a timetable for withdrawal, and by a large margin they also say they trust Congress, not Mr. Bush, to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq.
But this isn’t a normal political dispute. Mr. Bush isn’t really trying to win the argument on the merits. He’s just betting that the people outside the barricade care more than he does about the fate of those innocent bystanders.
What’s at stake right now is the latest Iraq “supplemental.” Since the beginning, the administration has refused to put funding for the war in its regular budgets. Instead, it keeps saying, in effect: “Whoops! Whaddya know, we’re running out of money. Give us another $87 billion.”Political risks of confrontation VS the risks of no confrontation.
At one level, this is like the behavior of an irresponsible adolescent who repeatedly runs through his allowance, each time calling his parents to tell them he’s broke and needs extra cash.
What I haven’t seen sufficiently emphasized, however, is the disdain this practice shows for the welfare of the troops, whom the administration puts in harm’s way without first ensuring that they’ll have the necessary resources.
As long as a G.O.P.-controlled Congress could be counted on to rubber-stamp the administration’s requests, you could say that this wasn’t a real problem, that the administration’s refusal to put Iraq funding in the regular budget was just part of its usual reliance on fiscal smoke and mirrors. But this time Mr. Bush decided to surge additional troops into Iraq after an election in which the public overwhelmingly rejected his war — and then dared Congress to deny him the necessary funds. As I said, it’s an act of hostage-taking.
Everyone talks about the political risks of confrontation, recalling the backlash when Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government in 1995. But there’s a big difference between trying to force a fairly popular president to accept deep cuts in Medicare — which is what the 1995 confrontation was about — and trying to get a deeply unpopular, distrusted president to set some limits on an immensely unpopular war.It's about more than politics - it's about the security and future of the United States.
Meanwhile, there are big political risks on the other side. If Congress responds to a presidential veto by offering an even weaker bill, voters may well react with disgust, concluding that the whole debate over the war was nothing but political theater.
Anyway, never mind the political calculations. Confronting Mr. Bush on Iraq has become a patriotic duty.
The fact is that Mr. Bush’s refusal to face up to the failure of his Iraq adventure, his apparent determination to spend the rest of his term in denial, has become a clear and present danger to national security. Thanks to the demands of the Iraq war, we’re already a superpower without a strategic reserve, unable to respond to crises that might erupt elsewhere in the world. And more and more military experts warn that repeated deployments in Iraq — now extended to 15 months — are breaking the back of our volunteer military.It even goes beyond this spending bill. I opposed any attempt to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney but I have reached the point where I'm not sure that the country (or the world) will survive another 21 months of this administration.
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