Can the Democrats find their way on Iraq?

Earlier this month, Nancy Pelosi said Jack Murtha spoke for himself. Now she says that he speaks for her, too.


Tim Grieve
December 1, 2005 12:45AM (UTC)

Although the American people are plainly unhappy with the way George W. Bush is handling the war in Iraq, Democrats in Washington haven't been able to unite behind any sort of clear alternative.

From the left, Sen. Russ Feingold has called for a Dec. 31, 2006, "target date" for getting the troops home. From the right, Sen. Joe Lieberman has just returned from Iraq with a stay-the-course assessment that's as rosy as anything you'll hear from the White House. The middle is just a mess. John Kerry, Joseph Biden, Hillary Clinton and a host of others have offered so many variations on a "we shouldn't pull out precipitously but we shouldn't stay for very much longer theme" that both the White House and its critics can accuse one another of stealing each other's plans.

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And then there's Nancy Pelosi, who seems to be having a hard time agreeing even with herself. When Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha called earlier this month for an immediate redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq, the House minority leader said that Murtha "speaks for himself very eloquently." But at a press conference in Washington today, Pelosi said that Murtha speaks for her, too. She said that the plan Murtha has proposed "makes America safer, our military stronger and Iraq more secure," and that she'll vote for his resolution in the House.

But will Pelosi push other House Democrats to get in line? The answer to that question would be no. As Roll Call reports, Pelosi said today that she's confident that a majority of House Democrats agree with Murtha, but she won't push any of them to put their names on the line in a vote. "The vote on the war is an individual vote," she said. And if the Democrats can't come together with a cohesive and easily communicated strategy on Iraq, that's all it's ever going to be.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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