It started in July with polls showing Americans were increasingly supportive of the war in Iraq. Then, the President's approval rating began to climb. Then Congress's approval rating fell to an all-time low. In between, the odd Democrat Congressman or analyst returned from Iraq saying good things, not bad, about the effect of the troop surge. With thanks to the California Conservative and Captain Ed for finding this story, we find that the Washington Post is reporting that the Democrats are forced to shift their policy on Iraq because of the undeniable success of the surge.
Remember, the Democrats tried every trick in the book to stop the surge. As CC points out, John Murtha launched the "slow bleed" strategy designed to let American's die in Iraq until there weren't enough left to fight. Now, we read this:
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), who made waves when he returned from Iraq by saying he was willing to be more flexible on troop withdrawal timelines, issued a statement to constituents "setting the record straight."
"I am firmly in favor of withdrawing troops on a timeline that includes both a definite start date and a definite end date," he wrote on his Web site.
But in an interview yesterday, McNerney made clear his views have shifted since returning from Iraq. He said Democrats should be willing to negotiate with the generals in Iraq over just how much more time they might need. And, he said, Democrats should move beyond their confrontational approach, away from tough-minded, partisan withdrawal resolutions, to be more conciliatory with Republicans who might also be looking for a way out of the war.
"We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning," he said, adding, "I don't know what the [Democratic] leadership is thinking. Sometimes they've done things that are beyond me."
For a Democrat leadership that has been unable, to this point, to find its voice, a plan, or a legislative win, developing an effective Iraq policy could prove a daunting task.
The Democrats have passed a minimum wage hike and signed off on Republic measures, including FISA, warrantless wire taps, and budgets. Well, they did manage to tack a lot of pork onto the budget, but that's no surprise. Republicans got theirs as well.
While doing nothing, Pelosi and Reid seem to have alienated as many Democrats as Republicans. The stolen vote fiasco in the session's waning moments involved Democrat leaders strong-arming five freshmen Democrats into changing their vote after the vote had been complete five, and other moderate Democrats, won't soon forget their shabby treatment.
So what could the Democrat strategy possibly be? We're with the President? Stay the course? If one surge was good, two are better? Perhaps they will pass a non-binding resolution rescinding their non-binding resolutions that demanded the President scuttle the surge. Could saying "we were wrong" hurt them? Help them?
I don't think this Democrat Congress is fatally wounded, but they better get a trauma helicopter instead of an ambulance. In their favor is a Republican President who has spent two years frittering away a large base of support. While he's turned those numbers around to a degree, he's a long way from 50-50 in the favorability department. And another set-back in Iraq would doom him now and in the history books. Another 2-3 months of decreasing US combat casualties will help, as will a stable Iraqi government and a Wall Street rally. Should the President's popularity surge, the Democrats will be sunk.
For the Presidential election, the consequences are even higher. All three top candidates have pushed the immediate surrender message since they stepped into the ring. In their recent"debate," they argued over who was against the war first. While the three of them might allow each other to flip quietly, rest assured the GOP field will not. At the same time, if the Democrat candidate do flip on the war, they will lose the base that holds about 80% of potential Democrat donations. That's enough money for the wingnuts to run a serious 3rd candidate who would take away exclusively from the Democrats.
For the first time in a long time, it feels like the good guys are winning--at home and abroad.
Part of the Beltway Traffic Jam
Update--Link Corrected: An amazing story and analysis on Captain's Quarters. There are reports that presumed Sunni insurgent leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, will join Maliki's government in Iraq. As Ed points out, this move would effectively end the Iraq War. Unless, of course, Iran jumps in with both feet, which is an increasing possibility. Still, if this happens, the Democrats will have a very hard time explaining what happened--and how they were so miserably wrong. Later, Bush officials will have to explain why it took them two and a half years to go back on the offensive. Neither question will be easy to answer.