- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Senate Democrats are an angry and frustrated bunch these days: While the American people are uncomfortable over the direction of the war in Iraq, they aren’t exactly clamoring for arbitrary timetables for an American pullout.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and senior Armed Services Committee members like Sens. Carl Levin and Jack Reed have tried to be on the best behavior — determined to convince the American people they’re not 21st-century McGovernites looking to cut and run in the face of terrorism. So, instead of talking about troop withdrawals, the focus groups and strategists at think tanks like the Center for American Progress, headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, came up with an idea they call “redeployment” — a plan for removing large numbers of American troops from Iraq to Kuwait or any other nearby country that would take them, ready to race back into Iraq whenever the situation threatened to become too calamitous to spin as another Democratic foreign-policy victory.

Thus far, though, the new PR campaign hasn’t spared the Democrats new embarrassment, as they have spent much of the past month feuding among themselves over the best way to leave the Iraqi people on their own to face the terrorists. For example, Sen. John Kerry offered a proposal to require President Bush to pull remaining troops out by July 2007. As the Senate prepared to vote on the Kerry plan two weeks ago, the New York Times ran a front-page story, “On Iraq, Kerry Again Leaves Democrats Fuming,” which explained, in essence, that many of Mr. Kerry’s Senate Democrats are furious with his insistence that they vote on his pullout plan, which had no change of winning Senate passage. Democrats were already angry at Mr. Kerry for advancing another pullout proposal one week earlier, which lost on a 93-6 vote.

The NYT story also said Democrats believe that by offering his amendment the Massachusetts senator was putting his 2008 presidential aspirations ahead of the well-being of the party. Mr. Kerry’s amendment was defeated (86-13), with more than two-thirds of Senate Democrats joining Republicans in voting against it. Later, the Senate voted 60-39 to reject an amendment pushed by the Democratic Party leadership that would have urged the Bush administration to begin a “phased redeployment” of U.S. forces some time this year. The tally for the three votes was 258 votes against withdrawing troops, 58 in favor.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has become a target of left-wing blogs for refusing to demand a pullout, sounded a somewhat discordant note for Democrats trying to distance themselves from the anti-war crowd: In a June 23 speech praising Democrats for challenging President Bush’s conduct of the war, Mrs. Clinton likened the Democrats’ current behavior to that of Sen. J. William Fulbright, an anti-war Democrat who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and came to symbolize his party’s demands for withdrawing from Vietnam — regardless of the consequences.

Since the Kerry embarrassment, the Democrats have seized upon reports that Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has presented several proposals for troop reductions, as evidence that the Bush administration is stealing their “redeployment” idea. Although we have misgivings about the concept of withdrawing troops (a topic for another day), there is a significant difference between the Bush administration’s proposals (based on progress in defeating the terrorists and reducing violence) and the Democratic proposals, where everything seems to be based on the idea that we need to get as many Americans as possible out right away — regardless of the damage it does to the Iraqi people and, most importantly, to the larger war against terror.


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