Crunch Time

It’s crunch time for the Democrats, particularly Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who are trying to meet a self imposed deadline of this upcoming Memorial Day to provide a war appropriations bill that will at once receive broad approval from congress, dodge a possible Bush veto, and yet still establish some amount of accountability on the Commander in Chief.

But the path that lies before them is a tricky one indeed. Coming fresh off of a meeting last friday in which we learned that the president will not even allow a waivable timeline to be passed into law, Democrats have been placed into a rather precarious position.

After enjoying a steady increase in approval ratings since January, even dragging the numbers up over forty in some polls, we’ve seen support flag for Congress in recent weeks, highlighting the rock and the hard place that Congressional Dem’s seemed to have found themselves in.

On one side, you have Bush, and the GOP. After years of braying about how much he doesn’t govern according to poll numbers, we are truly seeing El Presidente living up to this now. Simply put, Americans want us out of Iraq. Funnily enough, Iraqi’s want us out of Iraq. Much like his blind, solitary support for Paul Wolfowitz, and Alberto Gonzales, it seems the only person on the planet that really wants us there anymore would be Bush (note for the nitpickers, this is a literary device known as hyperbole. Of course Bush isn’t the ONLY person on the planet that wants us in Iraq. There’s also a guy who works the counter at a Miller Mart out in North Carolina; his name is Phil).

But with only narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, Bush has established himself as a man with a majority of one. His veto is indestructable, especially thanks to congressional Republicans. Which brings one to a rather interesting question: We all know Bush isn’t right in the head, but what’s wrong with the rest of the GOP? Not all of them can be touched in the head, and I’m pretty sure most of them know how to read, particularly polling numbers. So what gives?

Well, this is a kind of two part answer. For part one, all we need to know is that while most Americans want out of Iraq, most Republicans don’t, that is to say that about two thirds of Republican voters are actually for continuing war in Iraq. For part two, we have to look at the strategic aspects of Republican support for timetables or withdrawls. Allowing Democrats to go in and pass a bill with enough votes to override a veto, that becomes a HUGE victory for democrats; and considering the hostile political territory the GOP is already navigating, the last thing they need is a big win for the other side.

But of course, this isn’t the only obstacle that Democrats face in their uphill battle to first hold the administration accountable and second end the war. There is, in fact, a rather perilous three-way rift within Democrats’ own ranks, one which separates those who just want some sort of progress with the “all or nothing” crowd with the “I would really like to keep my job so please let’s not get accused for not funding the troops” crowd.

And, really, you can’t blame them. The political landscape that lies ahead is filled with landmines, and no one can know what the right answer is. Bush himself provides a rather nasty and powerful wildcard. Should, for instance, Dem’s get behind a straight up pullout bill, and stick to it, under a sane administration, we could assume that funding would eventually run out, and the president, being a sane and responsible person, would order the troops home.

But the evidence as to El Presidente’s state of mind is not exactly encouraging, and so, as some have pointed out, this really is a game of chicken, and it looks like the President is determined to win at any cost. There is a real possibility that this guy will keep troops over in Iraq if all we have to give them are popsicle sticks and toilet paper.

So I find it unfortunate. Everyone knows why Democrats won back both houses of congress last fall, but what I think too many people expected was that Dems would get up there on the Hill, snap their fingers, and it would be over. Now, it’s May, they’ve had a few months to get it done, and we’re still in Iraq, and as people are wondering what the hell is going on, we’re seeing that born out in the polls.

But you can’t expect miracles, especially when the majority isn’t even strong enough to stop a filibuster, let alone a veto. In situations like this, you have to expect there to be hesitant steps and caution. As we near crunch time, people need to realize that Pelosi and Reid are going to war on ending the war with the congress that they have, not the congress that they need.

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