Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The House Democratic leadership picked up a couple of big Iraq votes yesterday (Jan Schakowsky and John Tanner), but they remain on shaky ground: Maxine Waters is still a no, Lynn Woolsey is still a no, and John Lewis... well, as he put it:

As a nation, can we hear the words of Gandhi, so simple, so true -- that it's either nonviolence or nonexistence? Can we hear the words of Martin Luther King Jr., saying that we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools? Tonight, I must make it plain and clear, that as a human being, as a citizen of the world, as a citizen of America, as a member of Congress, and as an individual committed to a world at peace with itself, I will not and cannot vote for another dollar or another dime to support this war.
In other words, the next twenty-four hours are going to be an uphill battle.

I have to say, though: considering that this vote is largely symbolic (at best, it'll pass both chambers and be firmly and immediately vetoed; at worst, it won't even get a vote in the House), it's frustrating that the best the Democrats are able to do is commit to a withdrawal date sixteen months from now. As I'm sure someone famous once said: if you're going to lose, you may as well lose on something worth losing. The Democrats get beaten on some crazy, left-wing, latte-drinking, out-of-Iraq-tomorrow plan? Fine; they fought the good fight. But they get beaten on a relatively milquetoast, meet-you-halfway compromise measure*? That seems strategically unwise.

Incidentally, that Post article seems to suggest that the outcome of this vote will bear heavily on perceptions of Clyburn's effectiveness as whip ("the failings of his organization are resurrecting fears that the courtly Southern gentleman is simply too nice for a job known for head-banging, punishment and retribution"). I don't think that's actually the case, but if it is, it's startlingly unfair. That Clyburn bears some responsibility as a member of the leadership is unquestionable; but for the rest of the leadership to slough off blame for their collective miscalculation on some imagined failure of Clyburn's to deliver votes that they could otherwise have gotten would be ludicrous. Read that John Lewis excerpt again, and tell me honestly if you think there's anyone short of Lyndon Johnson who could have delivered Lewis's vote, or the vote of anyone who agrees with him. At the end of the day, on an issue as important and volatile as this one, Members are going to vote their consciences. It'd be foolish to take that out on James Clyburn.

* - If this was a price negotiation, here's where it would stand:
    Democrats: We'll give you $2.
    Republicans: We'll take nothing less than $100.
    Democrats: Okay, fine, we'll give you $10.
    Republicans: Sorry. Nothing less than $100.
    Democrats: Alright, $35.
    Republicans: $100.
    Democrats: $60?
    Republicans: $100.
    Democrats: Alright, fine. $85. But that's our final offer.

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