Wherever they are, I hope the authors of our Constitution are pondering the spectacle now bedazzling Capitol Hill.
In the admirable governing document that the Founding Fathers fashioned, they made the president “commander in chief” of our military. Yet, according the novel reading of the newly elected Democratic majority, the Founding Fathers denied the president the instrumentalities to be commander in chief. For more than two centuries, through wars large and small, American presidents have been equipping armies, deciding strategy and sending those armies into battle. Now, however, along come the Hon. Nancy Pelosi, the Hon. Harry Reid, and the incomparable Hon. John P. Murtha with their exegesis of the Constitution.
Past presidents were in error. They acted unconstitutionally when they in their impertinence had their generals and admirals train and equip our forces. Those duties, according to this trinity of fantasists, were to be left to committees on Capitol Hill, even committees dominated by a president’s opponents. Thus Speaker of the House Pelosi has charged Mr. Murtha to divine the conditions under which reinforcements will fight in Iraq. The Democrats approved of putting Lt. Gen. David Petraeus in charge of Coalition forces in Iraq, but they do not approve of his strategy of “surge.” Thus he will apparently have to sit tight until Mr. Murtha, an opponent of the war, decides how Gen. Petraeus’ troops will be armed and trained.
Does this sound a bit fla fla? Has any war ever been fought this way? What are the Democrats thinking of? They are thinking of more electoral victories in 2008. If they can effectively hamstring our efforts in Iraq, they somehow think the American electorate will blame the whole thing on the Republicans. The worse the sectarian violence becomes, the better for Democratic prospects. The more Iraq descends into anarchy the more likely the American people will whoop it up for the political party that, as The Washington Post has put it, linked “support for President Bush’s war-funding request to strict standards of resting, training and equipping combat forces.”
Frankly I think the Democrats are taking reckless chances with their fate. For a certitude, they are treating our military even more recklessly. The Democrats’ political meddling in this war is obviously dragging it out and endangering our troops. In fact, the rancorous way they have moved from support of the war to opposition has to encourage our enemies in Iraq and elsewhere.
You might recall in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, as we drove the Taliban from Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, serious observers of world events such as British historian Niall Ferguson questioned American resolve. Mr. Ferguson seemed to believe that in light of this new threat of international terror originating from Middle East rogue states, the United States would demonstrate the resolve to overcome this new threat to the democracies.
Well, Professor Ferguson, you underestimated the partisan nature of contemporary American politics. So eager for high office are the Democrats that they would endanger our war effort to gain political advantage. They voted for war in 2002. They sneered at the handful of antiwar activists led by the likes of Professor Noam Chomsky who opposed it. Then they suffered the disturbing sense that their support of wartime President Bush marginalized them and helped him in his 2004 re-election bid. Of a sudden, they fabricated a complaint, to wit, “Bush lied to us about WMDs.”
That bogus complaint now justifies them in harassing his execution of the war. Note that the Democrats are not actually calling for retreat. They might eventually, but for now all they want to do is take on constitutional powers that no other Congress has ever taken on, the power to manage a war. It is disgraceful and it is very stupid. It assumes the American people will not hold them accountable when bad consequences follow upon their bad behavior.
Mr. Bush is in a difficult situation in Iraq. Yet from the looks of it he will be saved, if not by Gen. Petraeus then by the Democrats’ shameful political tactics in time of war.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute. His next book, “The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President’s Life After The White House,” will be published March 20 by Thomas Nelson Inc.