Do Dems now share equal blame with Bush for Iraq? No

I oppose the capitulation on war funding, but let's be clear: This is Bush's war, and the only way it will end is by putting a war opponent in the White House.

Published May 24, 2007 11:18PM (EDT)

(Updated below after the Senate vote)

I got links to my post lamenting the Democrats' cave-in from Kos, Atrios, Digby and Firedoglake today, which I appreciate, but some readers are angry about my quick post after that one, calling MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's anti-Democrat rant Wednesday night "a bit over the top." Here's what I meant: I oppose the compromise/capitulation bill just passed by the House, but I'm uncomfortable with blanket attacks on Democratic leaders that make the party's disappointing cave-in somehow equivalent with what the Bush administration has done over the last four years in Iraq, as Olbermann did. I'm with Kos on this one: I think you have to take apart the caucus, applaud those who are standing up against Bush, criticize the underminers, and be wary of generic denunciations of "Democratic leaders" that suggest they now share with Bush equal blame for the war, and for the many deaths likely to come before it's over. Because they don't.

I'm not writing this just to respond to the criticism in the Olbermann thread; I think this is a crucial moment for people who want to stop the war, but disagree about the best way to do it. It's not time for another circular firing squad. Of course, like many antiwar Democrats, I wanted this to go a different way. As I've said on MSNBC (more on that later), I was encouraged by the fact that Democrats held their ground as long as they did on a funding bill with timelines. I thought it might offer a way to politically neutralize the slanderous "Democrats are defunding the troops!" claim. After all, Democrats (and a few brave Republicans) funded the troops; Bush is the one who vetoed the bill, and thus defunded them. I wanted to see party leaders do that again, frankly. I'm disappointed they did not. But I don't think it's entirely fair to talk about a "shameless, bipartisan betrayal," as Olbermann did, either.

Clearly many Democrats have once again fallen for ludicrous warnings from pollsters and consultants and Beltway seers that they have to support the president or risk looking soft on defense, just as they did in October 2002, ignoring the political wounds they suffered after that capitulation (not to mention the quite literal wounds Americans and Iraqis suffered as a result of that capitulation). Here's the quote from Democratic pollster Fred Yang making the rounds: "Obviously it's a good move. It gives President Bush and Republicans one less thing to shoot at." Gee, Fred, have you thought about the soldiers who are literally being shot at while the Democrats are enjoying their peaceful recess? Do you wish you could take that quote back? Feel free to use our comments section to clarify.

But I can't dismiss the point of view of people who argue, as Mike Tomasky did in the Guardian on Tuesday, that the party doesn't have the votes to stop the war, and thus Democrats have to focus on recapturing the White House and bulking up their congressional majorities in 2008, since that's in the end the only way to bring the troops home. There is absolutely no way that Bush winds down the war, and given that all the Republicans running except Ron Paul support it, getting out of Iraq will require putting a Democrat in the White House. Unfortunately, what follows from that logic is usually the assertion that the Democrats can't take the risk of defying Bush again on this funding bill. I don't agree with that view, but I don't think holding it makes you complicit in the deaths of American soldiers, either. This is a gut-wrenching issue. Some people who caved are craven; some truly believe they're doing the right thing to stop the war in the long run. (And some haven't bothered to tell us what they think; yes, I'm looking at you two, Sens. Clinton and Obama. It's nighttime on Thursday as I write, the House has voted, and still, not a peep?)

There's silliness in the Olbermann thread, too. I live in San Francisco, I'm hardly a Beltway captive. I'm not trimming my sails to avoid offending my television masters; I've criticized MSNBC both on Salon and on the network itself. And it's funny to be denounced for appearing on MSNBC by fans of Keith Olbermann, who works for, yes, MSNBC.

Update: In the end, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted no on the bill, along with Christopher Dodd; Joe Biden voted yes. Better late than never for Clinton and Obama, though an early denunciation of the bill might have swung some votes (and there's lots of speculation about the reasons behind the precise timing of each of their votes.) I confess to being surprised that only 14 senators voted against the bill. "I cannot vote to stop funding for our troops who are in harmb

By Joan Walsh

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