Biden bites it with Iraq impotence [VIDEO]
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On the one hand, the incoming Dems are sending a message to Bush that they oppose his escalation, casting it -- smartly -- as contrary to the advice of the generals in the field.
On the other, they seem to be falling all over themselves to create a situation where it's nearly impossible to take decisive action. In some cases, they're even making dubious arguments about the constitution.
From the WaPo:
"If the president wants to add to this mission, he's going to have to justify it," Pelosi said on CBS's "Face the Nation," emphasizing that while Congress will not cut off funding for troops now in Iraq, the White House will no longer have a "blank check" for expanding the war effort.
Way to frame yourself into a disaster.
By casting a cap on spending as "funding for troops," you've tied your hands behind your back. When it's time to cut off spending in order to force an end to the war -- as was the case with Vietnam -- your opponents will point to your remarks and say "oh, NOW you're ready to cut the troops off."
In other words, make sure the idea works this way: the president has the troops there. Congress funds or doesn't fund, and if they fund it such that there isn't enough, the president is keeping the troops in harm's way. Not congress. Or he has to fight the war with congress's advice. Something more than, in the words of James Brown, Please Please Please.
The worst case may be Joe Biden, who just announced his bid for '08.
In the clip above Biden claims that it's "constitutionally questionable" for congress to pass a bill that would cap troops or spending. Biden likens this to telling the president: "Weâ€™re going to tell you you can go, but weâ€™re going to micromanage the war."
He concludes that all he can do, according to Marty Lederman, is to draft "a resolution of disapproval that is just hortatory."
Forget bad framing, Biden's just claiming that congress's ability to act as a check on the president in any meaningful, legislative way isn't constitutional. Wow. Lederman has words for Biden:
Even if there were a prohibition in the Constitution against so-called congressional "micromanagement" of a war -- and there's not -- this wouldn't be that. There would be no congressional officials here overseeing the President's discretionary responsibilities; no requirement that the President get approval of one or both Houses before taking certain actions. There would, instead, simply be limitations on a war imposed by statutes passed with the President's signature or by supermajorities of both Houses of Congress over the President's veto.
Biden may, as Paul Krugman points out (in a subscription-only NY Times column), be counting on the fact that Bush is "running out the clock" and just keeping Iraq going so it's the next guy's problem, but playing chicken with this chickenhawk ain't gonna get you elected president. The nation is looking for more. They already dumped Kerry, what more do the '08s need to know?
Robert Reich, although wishing for a different approach, takes the more strategic view:
As long as Dems remain opposed to Bushâ€™s policies and the Democratic leadership offers some semblance of unity in opposition â€“ while at the same time giving Bush the money he wants to carry out his policies â€“ the Dem candidate in 2008 can blame Bush and the Republicans, and no Republican candidate who supports Bush will have a comeback.