- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

Were the Copperheads (northern sympathizers of the Confederacy who dogged President Lincoln during the Civil War) and the America Firsters who fought FDR prior to Pearl Harbor nothing more than buffoons — politicians who would stage press conferences on life-and-death issues that would degenerate into bad stand-up comedy routines? We’re not aware that either of those anti-war movements sank quite to those depths, but the same cannot be said for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who desperately tried and failed to explain their own Iraq troop-withdrawal legislation last week. As Christina Bellantoni of The Washington Times reported Friday: “For all the fanfare surrounding the announcement of the House Democrats’ Iraq war plan, few members seem to understand the specifics in the bill or when it would actually bring troops home.”

At one press conference, Rep. Maxine Waters, now serving her 9th term in the House of Representatives, declared that under the Out of Iraq Caucus’s plan, the United States could remove U.S. troops from Iraq “by August of 1980 [sic.”] Then, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, reasoning that 1980 had already taken place, said the actual date was August 2008. Rep. Lloyd Doggett suggested that Mr. Bush, “the misleader,” was to blame for his colleagues’ confusion. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, California Democrat, tried to explain the caucus plan, but stumbled over the chronology of the withdrawal, saying at one point that it would take place in the “20th [sic] century.” She became flustered, then said: “Actually, we want our troops home with their families by Christmas.” The caucus proposal is “confusing,” said Mrs. Waters, noting the obvious as Capitol Hill reporters managed to stifle laughter.

Meanwhile, a rival press conference staged by Mrs. Pelosi and the House Democratic Leadership was if anything even more incoherent, as Mrs. Pelosi flailed away, trying to explain a convoluted series of benchmarks for “progress” in Iraq later this year. After members of the Capitol Hill press corps giggled and said they were confused, an exasperated Mrs. Pelosi finally blurted out: “No matter what, by March 2008, the redeployment begins.” Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, dazzled reporters with his incoherence, stating that “our troops must be out of a combat role by October — I mean by August of 19 — of 2007.” Mrs. Pelosi then reminded him that the correct date was actually 2008. Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, and committee staffers were unable to say precisely how much money was in the Iraq supplemental bill the panel was considering.

There are reasons beyond sheer incompetence why the Democrats are having such difficulty explaining what their bill is supposed to achieve. The party is paralyzed by divisions between anti-war ideologues who want to leave Iraq immediately, “centrists” who are uncomfortable with such a precipitous withdrawal and members of the party leadership who are desperately trying to keep the factions together and pretend they can do so without putting our soldiers at risk. The result is incoherent legislation that its own sponsors do not really understand. The real losers are our fighting men and women on the battlefield who deserve far better.

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