Every poll I've seen since the Democrats caved on the last Iraq War supplemental funding bill has agreed on two things. The first is that Bush's popularity ratings have dropped steadily, to levels not perceptibly above the level at which Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment. The second is that the Democratic Congress is polling a consistent 3% to 4% below Bush. And if you need any more reminders of why, let me say this: I hope that nobody who reads this journal is stupid enough to fall for Harry Reid's Tuesday night pointless and annoying publicity stunt.
Senator Reid says that what he's trying to do is make the Republicans explain why they won't allow an on-the-record vote over whether or not to force troop withdrawals from Iraq next April. This is so condescendingly stupid that it enrages me to even type that sentence, to dignify what he said with additional print space. There is so much obviously wrong with this that I don't even know where to begin. First of all, you don't gain the extra 9 votes he'd need to force a cloture motion by playing parliamentary maneuvers intended not to persuade them, but to insult them. Secondly, even if this insulting stunt were to somehow shame up another 9 votes, it would be on an entirely pointless measure. Bush would simply veto it, and then he'd need not 9 more votes, but another 25 votes. Never going to happen. And if somehow that did happen? Bush would simply take it to the Supreme Court that the Democrats let him pack, which would rule (probably 5 to 4) that Congress's power of the purse doesn't give them specific authority over troop movements. So even if it could possibly work, it couldn't possibly work.
Senator Reid and the other Democratic leadership in Congress claim that they're forced to do this by the fact that the public wants them to end the war, but the Republicans won't let them. That's an even bigger lie, one that I've explained so many times that I hope none of you are falling for it. The fact of the matter is, as we saw in the argument over the last supplemental appropriation, the White House doesn't have one thin dime to spend that wasn't given to them by a majority vote in both houses of Congress. Period. It only takes 40 pro-war senators to stop a law from ending the war, but it takes 51 pro-war senators to spend money on it. If 51 or more senators simply announce that no matter how many motions or bills the Republicans propose they will not vote for any budget for next year that contains money for the Iraq War, then no such budget passes. Worried about Democratic (or faux Democratic) defectors? The same budget has to originate in the House, where the supposedly anti-war Democrats have an even bigger majority.
What happens if Bush keeps vetoing budgets because those budgets don't contain Iraq War funding? We went through this very question not much more than a decade ago, when Clinton said that he would veto any budget that didn't contain certain language he wanted, including "Pay-Go," the budget-balancing amendment that said that nobody in Congress could propose any new spending or any new tax cuts without explaining what other spending would be cut or other taxes would be raised to pay for it. Newt Gingrich called his bluff, and kept sending up Republican budgets for Clinton to veto. When the money ran out, Clinton started shutting down the federal government, starting with the least important employees and agencies, to stretch out the money he had left. This left it up to the public who to blame: Newt Gingrich, or Bill Clinton? But Bill Clinton knew going into it that the voters were on his side, that the voters wanted the same budget language that he was demanding. The Republicans ended up backing down.
Now, you may think that the lesson of this is, "in a budget showdown, the President wins." Bull. The lesson of this is that in a budget showdown, the side that's standing up for what the American public wants wins. And there is no political proposition in the United States less popular with the voters than Bush's claim that we should keep spending money and lives on Iraq until some improbably magical day when the Sunnis and the Shiites and the Kurds lay down their weapons and learn to live peacefully together as one happy country. No, trust me, if George Bush were to start shutting down popular government services rather than give in on the Iraq War, the voters wouldn't be calling Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to demand that they give him more Iraq War money.
I don't know which to believe: that the Democrats in Congress are too stupid to do this math, or that they don't actually want to end the war. I'd personally rather believe in stunning levels of incompetence than believe that they're hoping to pave Senator Clinton's path to the White House with the blood and shattered bodies of another thousand or more American soldiers. Even if I didn't have deeply felt moral scruples about human sacrifice, I'd be far from certain which party's neck those bloody corpses are going to be hung around if the Democrats keep voting to fund it.