So what happened to House Democrats — and in particular Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — between Thursday and Sunday? We ask because on Thursday Mr. Hoyer pledged that “Republicans will be given either a substitute or a motion to recommit so that they can propose whatever substantive alternative that they choose” in regards to this week’s debate on the Democrats’ nonbinding resolution opposing the administration’s troop surge in Iraq. But on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Mr. Hoyer, seated beside Minority Leader John Boehner, said that allowing Republicans to offer an alternative resolution is “not necessarily our plan at this point in time.”
Mr. Hoyer’s broken promise is indicative of the way Democrats have been talking out of both sides of their mouth on the Iraq war. For their anti-war base, Democrats are keeping hope alive that they will — at some uncertain date — oppose the war more forcefully, perhaps by voting to cut off funding. But to the public at large, Democrats don’t want to be viewed as abandoning the troops. A clear example of this doubletalk are all the Democratic votes confirming Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. William Fallon, both of whom support the president’s new war plan. For now, all the Democrats have the strength for is a nonbinding resolution that opposes the troop surge. That kind of resolve was nicely ridiculed by presidential aspirant John Edwards, who compared it to a child “standing in the corner and stomping his feet.”
Republicans, however, think they already know where Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party are headed. Their resolution, which Mr. Hoyer said would be debated “within the next 35, 40 days,” would oppose cutting funds for the war effort — the only legislative way Congress could end the war. Republicans had hoped to get a few of their colleagues across the aisle on record, but that’s just the sort of tough decision-making that Mrs. Pelosi doesn’t think her party is ready to handle yet. Maybe in the next 35 or 40 days.
In any case, Mr. Hoyer’s timetable might be just enough time for Rep. John Murtha to complete his plan to cut off funding for the troops unless the military meets unspecified “readiness standards,” which no one expects the military will be able to do.
We don’t doubt the sincerity of Mr. Murtha and the rest of the get-out-now coalition, but the way in which House Democratic leaders are conducting this so-called debate is sheer political high jinks since, in fact, they are cutting off debate on the prosecution of the war. Let us be clear, a nonbinding resolution does nothing except serve as political agitprop and lower morale among our troops here and abroad.