In the wake of September 11, McGovernism — that is, the reflexive opposition to the use of force by the United States against foreign enemies that has dogged the Democratic Party since Richard Nixon’s time — became more of a liability than ever. At least, it appeared that way judging from the 2002 and 2004 election results. But in last year’s congressional elections, the Democrats came up with a shrewd, cynical new P.R. strategy that has until now served them well: saying lots of nice things about American soldiers fighting in Iraq while simultaneously advancing resolutions that denigrate their mission. But the decision to effectively cut off funds by micromanaging their use — rather than by doing so directly — may also be unconstitutional.
When the House votes today on the resolution denouncing Mr. Bush’s plans for additional troops to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Iraq, members should be under no illusions about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership are trying to do: to make it impossible for American troops to properly do their job in Iraq. In an interview yesterday with MoveCongress.org, a Web site for a coalition of anti-war groups, Mr. Murtha, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, explained that by placing conditions on $93.4 billion in new combat funds, he would make be able to effectively stop the troops in their tracks. “They won’t be able to continue. They won’t be able to do the deployment. They won’t have the equipment, they don’t have the training and they won’t be able to do the work. There’s no question in my mind,” Mr. Murtha said.
“We will set benchmarks for readiness,” a top Democratic leadership aide told the nonpartisan Politico.com Web site, which summarized the Democrats’ strategy this way: “If enacted, these provisions would have the effect of limiting the number of troops available for the Bush surge plan, while blunting the GOP charge that Democrats are cutting funding for the troops in Iraq.”
Aside from doing severe damage to the war effort in Iraq, the Democrats’ political strategy to cripple the war effort by attaching thousands of legislative strings to war funding may also be unconstitutional. Noted attorney and constitutional scholar David Rivkin makes a strong case that Congress cannot act like a “puppet master” appropriating and authorizing funds while attaching conditions that would effectively transform the president into a marionette. If Congress wants to cut off funding, it must do so honestly and directly, rather than dishonestly through micromanagement. In addition to paving the way for a geopolitical catastrophe for this country, the Democratic leadership may be setting the stage for a constitutional confrontation with the White House.