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ISSUE #115
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ArrowPresident Rubber vs. Speaker Glue
Pelosiís scarf and GOP barf

Allan Uthman

ArrowIn Defense of Ann Coulter?
Conservatives have a right to be assholes, just like real people

Paul Fallon

ArrowWithdrawal Symptoms
Iraq timetable’s a political fix

Matt Taibbi

ArrowJesus Christ!
People will believe anything

Ian Murphy

ArrowWhat, Me Worry?
Iranians aren’t scared of a U.S. attack

Russ Wellen

ArrowLandslide of Failure
The battle for election integrity is led by... the Governor of Florida?

Brad Friedman

ArrowDeregulation Killed my Cat
Food contamination: the Bush legacy

Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Whining Minority
Republican congressman turns from bully to baby

Matt Taibbi

ArrowIt's tax time again and I want to maul you
A.Rabid Dog

Self-refuting quotations from the world of politics

ArrowBonobos vs. Chimps
A Debate for Lemur Philosophers

A. Monkey


ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Censored Chocolate Jesus

ArrowKino Korner: Movies
Are We Done Yet?, Grindhouse, Blades of Glory, Pride, Reign Over Me, The Lookout, The Reaping, Perfect Stranger, Vacancy, Fracture

As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
A Very Thin Hope, Classy, Mile High Club, Equal Rights Harassment, Kiwi Fruit and more

  Withdrawal Symptoms

continued - page 2

As for everyone else -- specifically, the Democrats who sponsored and passed the timetable measure -- they benefited from the bill most directly, riding a crest of antiwar sentiment and setting the Democrats up as the party that will look the best in the eyes of frustrated, war-fatigued voters in 2008. But lost amid all of this antiwar posturing were a series of inconvenient truths. One was that the bill was always going to be meaningless because Bush was always going to veto it, there were never going to be enough votes to override the veto, and everybody knew there were never going to be enough votes to override the veto. The second is that the timetable measure was buried in an emergency spending bill to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bill that ended up authorizing $122 billion in spending when the supposedly evil, warmongering, politically isolated Bush White House only asked for $103 billion. In other words, the outwardly combative Democratic leadership not only refused to do anything substantive to bring the troops home, it actually tossed Bush an extra $20 billion or for the war effort without prodding.

BenchmarksIn my visits to Washington in the past few months I've heard different stories from Democratic congressional aides about what the party's intentions are. Some say they think the leadership is just going to stall and pass a bunch of non-binding, symbolic, Kumbayah horseshit to help propel whoever the Democratic candidate is into the White House two years from now. Others claim with a straight face that all of these non-binding resolutions are only a start, that the strategy is to really end the war via a death-by-a-thousand-cuts type of legislative grind, with the leadership sending to the floor bill after bill after bill designed to eat away at either war policy or war funding. They claim that all of these votes are exercises in coalition-building, necessary steps to gathering the support needed to pass real biting measures later on.

But I'll believe that when I see it. Right now, it all looks too convenient. With Bush a thrashing, drowning lame-duck whose endorsement in '08 will almost certainly be political poison to whomever has the misfortune to earn it, Republicans like Hagel and Oregon Senator Gordon Smith are conspicuously free to break ranks and save themselves. Moreover, the Democratic measure is crafted in such a way that the Hagels and Smiths and Ben Nelsons of the world can safely get on a soapbox about the war without having to face accusations of depriving the troops of equipment and "what they need" to fight, which just so happens to be the leitmotif/preoccupation of the Rush/Hannity talk shows of late. While Rush and the rest of the radio monsters blast Nancy Pelosi and Hillary for being army-haters ("These people are not just against victory. They are against the military," sez Rush), Hagel et al can say that they voted for both a scheduled withdrawal and a $20 billion increase in war funding. That is called having one's cake and eating it too, and folks on the Hill love that kind of political diet. There's a reason why there are not many skinny Senators.

You'll know that something real is going on in Washington when either a) the Democrats force the "antiwar conservatives" to actually cast a vote on whether or not to cut off spending for the war, or b) a dozen or so more Republicans cross the picket line to set up a possible override of a Bush veto. Until and unless one of those unlikely moments arrives, it sure looks like what we've got is one of those rare "good for both teams" baseball trades, an arranged standoff in which everybody gets to suck a little of that hot nourishing blood in the ballooning antiwar poll numbers.

My sense of this whole ballet from the start has been that with each passing season, as the antiwar rhetoric increases both among the public and in Washington, we'll see a corresponding increase in both financial and personnel commitment in the Iraq theater. The logic here is irresistible; Bush will not preside over what he perceives to be a surrender, and the Democrats will not cast a vote "against the troops" in an election season. So what we'll get is a lot of what we just saw -- non-binding antiwar votes hitched to troop increases and/or "short-term" funding boosts. It's worth noting that the same political logic that led the Bush White House to fund the war as an emergency long after it ceased to be an unexpected expenditure will now appeal to the Democrats, and for the same reason; so long as the money is in an "emergency" bill, they will be able to pretend, before voters, that the commitment is temporary.

What worries me about this state of affairs is that presidents don't like to see military losses land on their watch. If a Democrat wins in '08, bet on it, an excuse will be found to keep the troops there. The first day after her inauguration, when Hillary Clinton wakes up with a champagne hangover to hear Mark Daley (or whoever her chief of staff ends up being) tell her that 67 Marines have been slaughtered in a raid outside Ramadi, she is going to be powerfully tempted to prove that she has the stones to deal out the necessary payback. She'll ask for 10,000 extra troops and six months to "stabilize" the situation before initiating a withdrawal.

And once that happens, we'll be right back where we are now -- pretending we're against it, but without a way to actually make it happen while covering the requisite number of Washington asses. That's always what it comes down to, after all. And no matter how encouraged everyone seems to be by this withdrawal vote, I still haven't heard anyone tell me how the real pullout is going to work, politically that is. Because it's not enough that everyone knows it's necessary.





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