The bitter battle between the Democratic Congress and President Bush over Iraq war funding may be over for now, but another fight has erupted between Democrats and members of the antiwar base who say they were betrayed by their party.
Democratic leaders told their rank-and-file supporters Friday they had no choice but to give up efforts to tie a troop-withdrawal deadline to an emergency appropriations bill. Mr. Bush on Friday signed the bill that pays for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
Many antiwar activists and bloggers condemned the Democrats’ retreat and said their patience with party leadership was wearing thin.
“Today America watched a Democratic Party kick them square in the teeth — all in order to continue the most unpopular war in a generation,” Democratic campaign strategist David Sirota wrote Friday on the left-wing Huffington Post Web site. “We gave them our heart; they gave President Bush a blank check.
“That will make May 24, 2007, a dark day … when Democrats in Washington not only continued the war they promised to end, but happily went on record declaring that they believe in their hearts that government’s role is to ignore the will of the American people,” Mr. Sirota wrote.
The Daily Kos, one of the largest antiwar Web sites, also expressed disappointment and anger that leaders such as Democratic Sen. James H. Webb Jr. of Virginia voted to approve funding for the war. But it took some solace in Mr. Webb’s statement that he “will not relent from my continuing efforts to bring this occupation to an end.”
“They let us down this time. But the opportunities for them to make amends still exist,” Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the Daily Kos, wrote the day after the vote. “If Democrats take advantage of them, as they promise they will, then all might be forgiven. They can prove to us that they in fact know what they are doing, and that they, in fact, do plan on honoring their most sacred promise to the 2006 electorate.
“And if they don’t? Well, no one, not even the most rabid partisans, have an endless supply of patience,” Mr. Zuniga warned.
Antiwar activists were not the only ones attacking Democrats after the vote to send the war-funding bill to Mr. Bush’s desk.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and 2008 presidential candidate, attacked two of his Democratic challengers, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois for their vote to withhold money for the troops.
“I was very disappointed to see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton embrace the policy of surrender by voting against funds to support our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mr. McCain said in a statement released by his campaign. “This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it’s the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda.”
Mr. Obama responded, saying that Congress “is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else’s civil war.”
In a jab at Mr. McCain, the freshman senator said the civil war was self-evident when “Senator McCain required a flack jacket” and substantial military protection “to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago.”
Mr. McCain shot back: “While Senator Obama’s two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience … lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequence of failure would be catastrophic to our nation’s security.
“By the way, Senator Obama, it’s ‘flak’ jacket, not ‘flack’ jacket,” he added.