Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Dramatic Day In The House

Lawmakers Reject Immediate Iraq Withdrawal

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
Sat Nov 19, 3:41 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The Republican-controlled House spurned calls for an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq in a vote hastily arranged by the GOP that Democrats vociferously denounced as politically motivated.

"To cut and run would invite terrorism into our backyards, and no one wants to see troops fighting terrorism on American soil," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Friday night after the House, as planned, rejected a GOP-written resolution for immediate withdrawal.

The vote, held as lawmakers rushed toward a two-week Thanksgiving break, was 403-3.

Democrats accused Republicans of orchestrating a political stunt that prohibited thoughtful debate on the issue, and nearly all voted against the measure.

That included Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the Democratic hawk whose call Thursday for pulling out troops set off a nasty, personal debate over the war.
Many in the blogosphere are outraged and angered by this manuever, and I certainly can understand that. It gets under my skin, especially as the Republicans clearly targeted John Murtha for his speech on Iraq the day before. Let me quote some of it here, and then post what started the ruckus:
The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We can not continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

General Casey said in a September 2005 Hearing, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.” General Abizaid said on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.”


I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a “free” Iraq.

My plan calls:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq
In the resolution passed yesterday, this ended up being changed from a graduated and thought-out withdrawal to pulling out all troops immediately. Note that Murtha said keep all troops in until the December elections, then redeploy, re-arm and refresh existing troops while slowing backing away from the situation and then maintaining a nearby presence for immediate strikes if necessary.

A sound plan of action from a man with 37 years of Marine service behind his belt. Now look how he was slammed in Congress:
At one point in the emotional debate, Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, told of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel.

"He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do," Schmidt said. Murtha is a 37-year Marine veteran and ranking Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee.
Schmidt was clearly ordered to say that, and I'd even wager that the letter is a phony. Note what Dennis Hastert said, which mirrors the "cut and run" talking point. This wasn't some wildeyed nutcase taking a pot shot at a fellow Congresscritter. No, it was an orchestrated attack on a military man who put forth a sound and reasonable position, albeit he was angry when he said it (video of the speech here. Video of Schmidt's remarks here, both courtesy of Crooks and Liars.)

It put the House Democrats in a difficult position, one I don't think Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was properly prepared for: to vote for the bill as it stood would only end up in a defeat anyway, and would allow the Republicans a chance to paint the Democrats not as anti-war, but anti-troops (and by extension, anti-American), to vote against the bill would be painted as an endorsement of the President's plan of action. Naturally, the lesser of two evils prevailed.

But here's the potential backlash: moderate Republicans in the House (the few that are there) must have seen the display of rank hatred against a man who voted for the war in the first place and only this week even proposed a modest settlement of our uncertainties there. As Murtha himself said yesterday, "[The American people are] "thirsty for some direction; they're thirsty for a solution to this problem," referring of course to the blatant misdirection and willful disinformation the nation was fed by Bush in order to carry out this war that's been literally decades in the making.

Seeing someone they could actually work with get hammered and slapped (despite the fact that Senator John Warner scolded the House while the debate was going on, and even the right-wing wackos Curt Weldon, also of Pennsylvania, and Henry Hyde, both stepped up to praise Murtha....two hours into the feeding frenzy, it should be noted), did one of two things for them: scared the hell out of them, or just made them angrier at their party. If you're still not convinced, you might have missed this item; this message was sent to the mods as well.

This week, the mods had been feeling their oats, even voting WITH Democrats on some bills, like restoring healthcare spending cuts. The President had been the lone wolf for a couple of days, talking down the Democratic calls for troop withdrawal and criticizing the run-up to the war. Suddenly, congressional leadership found its footing and joined in the attack, which culminated yesterday, viciously.

Marty Meehan of Massachussetts said it best, "You guys are pathetic! Pathetic!"

Pathetic, yes. Which is why I temper my anger, swallow it a little, because I see something beyond this attempt to play on my emotions.

Maybe it's because I'm pretty good at instigating and fomentiing trouble that I see the Republican gambit here. They WANTED the Democrats to lose emotional control, to become furious, because in fury and anger, you make mistakes. Big ones.

Harry Reid surprised them two and a half weeks ago (by the way, Harry, where's the "hell" we were promised?) by being both angry and in control of his faculties enough to do something about it, and consequently Bill Frist was the one who looked foolish and weak. Reid found a weak spot, a chink in the armor, and exploited it.

So, let's say I'm Nancy Pelosi. What's my response?

The House is on vacation for two weeks for Thanksgiving (which is ridiculous, and I agree with Mirth in the thread below that congressmen ought to be IN Congress). If I'm Pelosi, I'm paying lip service to visiting my home district. Instead, I'm flying around California, New York, Massachussetts, Connecticut. I'm in Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, and Virginia. I'm talking, not to my Democratic comrades (altho they'd be there with me), but to Republicans. Like John Sweeney in New York, Nancy Johnson in Connecticut, Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania. And I'm going to look them straight in the eye and ask them to help defeat these madmen (and women, as Schmidt illustrates) before this country is torn apart. We need a coalition of the middle, one that can legislate for the good of the nation and not the fringe radical elements and special interests.

And somewhere in there, I'd work in a veiled threat that, as minority leader, I will throw every possible resource at my disposal into kicking them out of Congress in 2006 and replacing them with a Democrat. It may not be successful, since most incumbents are re-elected, but you can damn well bet these folks would be scratching deep to find money to stop me.

See, it's no longer time to be polite and respect our foes and sympathise with those who empathise with our plight. It's time to start winning: winning elections, yes, but winning the agenda back from the Regressives.

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