Friday, May 11, 2007

Subtraction By Addition

Chess is a game played best by conserving your resources while making your opponent waste his. Positional strategy forcing unexpected errors and moves while protecting your more vital pieces as needed.

A whiff of this strategy has begun to rise off the Democratic Iraq funding strategy:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives defied President George W. Bush on Thursday and passed an Iraq war funds bill providing only enough money to continue combat for two or three months, without a guarantee of future funding.

By a vote of 221-205, the House approved the Democratic-backed bill giving Bush $42.8 billion in emergency military funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in a Democratic drive to bring the four-year-old Iraq war to an end, the bill would withhold an additional $52.8 billion until late July, after Bush submits progress reports. Lawmakers then would decide whether to use this second batch of money to continue combat, or bring U.S. troops home.

Bush wants the nearly $100 billion up front and without conditions. "I'll veto the bill if it's this haphazard, piecemeal funding," Bush said earlier in the day.
What does this really mean?

Bush has already vetoed one Iraq spending bill that would have given him all the money he asked for and more, but tied that money to accepting a withdrawal strategy for our troops.

This bill gives Bush all the funding he's asked for over the period he asked for it, but limits his spending to a time frame, pending confirmation that the funds are being used productively. Let's call it an "allowance," for lack of a better term.

This strikes me as an interesting strategy: by pushing Bush's hand to the pieces they want him to move, the Democrats are setting a trap, I think. Ultimately, by September, no more than transitional stop-gap spending measures will have been passed (forcing Bush to fight this war à la carte, while leaving him few options to pursue the endgame he would prefer: a clean spending bill that he would only have to revisit late in an election year (thus neatly giving the Republican candidate a platform to campaign on that would sustain Bush's "legacy" while giving that candidate the option to let the war die after being sworn in or worse, allowing Bush to claim victory, and pass the mantle on).

When the Democrats won both houses of Congress in 2006, I assumed that the Bush strategy would be to run out the clock on his administration, but I didn't take into account the funding (or for that matter, rescinding the original war authorization).

Shows you why I'm running for NotPresident...and not President!

We're rounding into the summer now, and so I don't expect there will be much accomplished aside from funding the Iraq war, finally, on whatever terms the Dems can persuade the Republicans in Congress to accept on a veto-proof basis, but it's clear the Democrats are not just going to roll over, afraid of a veto-mad tinpot despot.