Thursday, May 03, 2007

So long, timeline

By Michael J.W. Stickings

WaPo:

President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq.

Democrats backed off after the House failed, on a vote of 222 to 203, to override the president's veto of a $124 billion measure that would have required U.S. forces to begin withdrawing as early as July. But party leaders made it clear that the next bill will have to include language that influences war policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) outlined a second measure that would step up Iraqi accountability, "transition" the U.S. military role and show "a reasonable way to end this war."

We made our position clear. He made his position clear. Now it is time for us to try to work together," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said after a White House meeting. "But make no mistake: Democrats are committed to ending this war."

Which is good, of course, but, in my view, a timeline for withdrawal was never a good idea -- or, rather, never good politically for the Democrats. (See here.)

Still, I have little confidence that the White House will negotiate and seek common ground in good faith. One thing we know about Bush, after all, is that compromise is never a desirable option and that he only pursues it reluctantly and when all other avenues to getting what he wants are closed.

Which means that the Democrats needs to keep up the pressure. Aside from taking a principled position against the war, they have played this extremely well so far -- pushing for withdrawal, forcing a Bush veto, and taking advantage of disagreement in the Republican ranks. Bush must still be held accountable for this disastrous war, but the Democrats can show true leadership if they work out a compromise, with or without Bush, that appeals to those Republicans who are ready to join them in working to end this ongoing madness.

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