The Democrats' disarray, the Republicans' delight

Can the opposition party come together on Iraq?

By Tim Grieve
Published December 2, 2005 5:07PM (EST)

It was going to happen sooner or later. The Washington press corps, unable to come up with new ways to say that George W. Bush is flailing on Iraq, has finally turned its sights on the Democrats. CNN spent much of the day Thursday tracking the Democrats' disarray on Iraq, and the Washington Post chimes in today: "Democratic Lawmakers Splinter on Iraq," the headline says.

It's not like the Democrats haven't given the press ammunition. As we reported earlier this week, the Democrats are indeed divided on the course forward in Iraq. Joseph Lieberman has so fully embraced the president's plan that Bush cites his support in his speeches now. John Kerry, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have a hard time articulating concepts that sound much different than what the White House is already proposing. Jack Murtha made a principled stand by calling for the immediate redeployment of troops, but while some Democrats stood by him, others have kept their distance. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did both, first saying that Murtha spoke only for himself, then saying that she agreed with him after all.

It didn't take long for the Republicans to pounce. "Nancy Pelosi's flip-flop on troop withdrawal further demonstrates the deep division and chronic indecision that exist within the Democrat Party on the war on terror," New York Rep. Tom Reynolds, head of the House Republican Campaign Committee, told Reuters earlier this week. The Washington Times says Republican leaders are "delighted" by the "chaos" among Democrats. When the Democrat running against Tom DeLay in 2006 finds himself forced to say whether he supports the "Pelosi-Murtha" plan for Iraq, it's easy to see why the GOP might be pleased.

The Democratic Leadership Council's Marshall Wittmann tells the Post that the Democrats' response on Iraq -- and, in particular, Pelosi's public flip-flop -- plays right into the hands of Republicans who need to convince the public that the opposition still can't be trusted on matters of national security. "If Karl Rove was writing the timing of this, he wouldn't have written it any differently, with the president of the United States expressing resolve and the Democratic leader offering surrender," Wittmann said. "For Republicans, this is manna from heaven."

Tim Grieve

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

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Iraq Iraq War Middle East Nancy Pelosi D-calif.