Democrats debate when to leave Iraq

Republicans cry "cut and run."

Published June 21, 2006 3:18PM (EDT)

In the Senate today, Democrats are trying to find their way between the leave-Iraq-by-July 2007 position, advocated by Sens. John Kerry, Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer, and the more open-ended phased withdrawal advocated by the party leadership. The Republicans aren't offering any alternative plans for ending the war, besides grumbling that such talk of withdrawal amounts to a plan to "cut and run."

A front-page story in today's New York Times lets Sen. Kerry defend his proposal, while arguing that it's angering some other Dems by making the party appear indecisive before the November elections. Kerry told the Times: "The Democrats need to be strong and stand up with a clear articulation about how we make the United States stronger," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, we should go right at Karl Rove and his phony tough talk that is calculated purely for the election and not for a successful strategy in Iraq. I'm doing what I think is the right thing to do as a policy matter," he said, "for our troops and for the country. Someone else will deal with politics."

The Times suggests that the debate in the party is about more than just politics, reflecting an actual split among the American people: "Polls suggest many Americans are eager to see American troops come home from Iraq but are uneasy about leaving too soon. The rival Democratic approaches may reflect that tension, with Mr. Kerry appealing to those who regard the war as a mistake, while the Democratic leaders reflect more caution."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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Barbara Boxer D-calif. Iraq John F. Kerry D-mass.