- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2007

“What we pay people in Washington for is to make decisions,” former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told the audience at the California Republican Convention in Sacramento Saturday.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, members of Congress have acted as if they were sent to Washington to make nondecisions. Witness the nonbinding House resolution debated this week, in which members profess to support U.S. troops in Iraq but “Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on Jan. 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional U.S. combat troops to Iraq.” The Senate couldn’t even manage to pass a meaningless Iraq resolution when it tried earlier this month — a nonaccomplishment for which the senators, over time, may be glad.

What are Americans to think of the House resolution? Politicians say they support the troops, then they undercut the efforts of Gen. David Petraeus, the new military commander in Iraq, to assemble the soldiers he believes he needs to win.

Last year, war critics bashed Mr. Bush for not listening to Gen. Eric Shinseki, who wanted the administration to send more troops to Iraq. Now, they support resolutions against more troops.

As Mr. Giuliani noted: “What I don’t get is the nonbinding resolution. I don’t get that. In the business world, two weeks spent on a nonbinding resolution would be considered nonproductive.” He also called it “a comment without making a decision.”

It felt good to see a politician look at a White House run without first reconfiguring his platform to reflect polls that show Americans souring on the Iraq war.

The latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows 60 percent of voters disapprove of the Bush troop surge. Some 56 percent say going to war was a mistake. But Mr. Giuliani didn’t run from the war in his remarks, because it is too late to turn back.

Granted, Mr. Giuliani was speaking to Republicans, but the pack of journalists in the back of the room guaranteed that his words would be passed on to the general public.

Still, Mr. Giuliani had no problem comparing Mr. Bush’s situation today with that of President Abraham Lincoln during the dark days of the Civil War. Mr. Giuliani noted that naysayers dismissed Lincoln as a dimwitted incompetent during the 1863 draft riots in New York and the crushing military defeats that occurred before Lincoln found the right general in Ulysses S. Grant. Because Lincoln did not give in to defeat, the Union prevailed and slavery died.

Mr. Giuliani added, “In time of war, you don’t talk about pulling out.”

Except in time of elections in time of war, when politicians do talk about pulling out. Some Democrats argue Mr. Bush should end the war to show he has heard the message voters sent in November 2006. Never mind that, now in power, the Democrats remain afraid to cut off war funding lest they be blamed if events in Iraq blow up in their faces. So they stick to nonbinding resolutions.

On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, distanced herself from her vote in favor of the war resolution, when she said, “Knowing what we know now, I would never have voted for it.”

Mrs. Clinton’s plan for Iraq seems poll tested and poll approved: She wants to cap the number of U.S. troops in Iraq (the Gallup poll shows 57 percent approve), but she does not want the Senate to cut off funding for the war (58 percent of those polled are with her).

Among other Democratic candidates, Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, says he never would have voted for the war; former Sen. John Edwards now says his vote for the war was a mistake and he wants to bring all American troops home within 18 months.

Who will win in 2008? The Republicans clearly could lose even more in 2008 than they lost in 2006. But if it were certain supporting the Iraq war is the political kiss of death, Democrats and anti-war Republicans would move to cut off funding, instead of debating nonbinding resolutions.

When Mr. Giuliani addressed Republicans, he had a message of hope. Mr. Giuliani showed he was willing to stick to an unpopular position, which suggests there are some things he would not do to win an election.

If either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Edwards is the Democratic presidential nominee, what will they say? That they are really smart Democrats who somehow were gulled by the lightweight George W. Bush? Please.

Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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