Unsurprisingly, the Democrats have backed down on their demands that Bush end the war on a timetable. The Democrats do not have the votes to override the President’s veto, and they’re not likely to get them any time soon.
So what was the point of all this? I’m not sure that even the Democrats know. They’ve done a magnificent job of painting themselves into a corner. When you call the war “lost” you’ve got nowhere to go with that. How can Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi continue to commit further resources to a conflict that they think is already lost? It’s not a position that’s going to endear themselves to the netroots radicals, to be sure. Already, the left is demanding that they hold fast on deadlines, which is going to lead to a deadlock.
There’s a case to be made for benchmarking the conflict — that gives the commanders in the field the ability to have discretion, but not demanding an unreasonable and inflexible date for something that’s a process, not an event. However, the Democrats aren’t going to be satiated until they get their surrender, and even if they get a compromise bill, the netroots aren’t going to be very inclined to like it.
The Democrats tried to go all in when they didn’t have the cards. It was a politically idiotic thing to do. The result is that the Democrats are now on record as a party of defeat, the media is beginning to question the wisdom of preemptive surrender, and now the Democrats have to make themselves look impotent because they provoked a veto they knew they couldn’t override. All this ended up being was a a Kabuki dance that benefits no one. Bush doesn’t get any political benefit from this war — quite the opposite. Pelosi doesn’t get any political benefit from annoying her liberal base by having to get a compromised bill passed. The soldiers may not get the supplies they need while Washington plays politics.
Actually, there are some winners in all of this: al-Qaeda and Iran get the benefit of seeing their primary nemesis caught up in political backfighting while they continue to bleed Iraq dry.
UPDATE: Now the Democrats are denying that they’re backing down on Iraq. If true, they’re miscalculating by a wide margin again. Do the Democrats really want to be the party responsible for our troops not having the supplies they need? This political posturing can only go on so long before the Democrats have to bend. If it comes down between the Democrats and Bush, the Democrats win and Bush loses. If it comes down between the Democrats and American soldiers, the odds are not good for the Democratic Party. They’re playing with fire here, and right now they’re posed for the same kind of overstretch that hurt the Republicans when they shut down the government.