Monday, January 15, 2007

There They Go Again

NY Times:
Speaking on “This Week” on ABC News, Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the subcommittee on military appropriations in the House, said he expected Congress to move to restrict financing for new troop deployments — or at the very least tie approval to stringent conditions the White House would have to meet first.

“If we have our way, there will be some substantial change and tremendous pressure put on this administration to change direction,” Mr. Murtha said.

But Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CNN on Sunday that he did not believe Congress should “use the power of the purse” to halt the president’s plan and that it should go no further than approving nonbinding resolutions opposing it.
The growing pressure on Democrats to confront the White House was highlighted by a speech delivered Sunday by John Edwards, the former Democratic senator from North Carolina who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination. Mr. Edwards, who voted to authorize the war when he was in the Senate in 2002 but has since said that it was a mistake, said Congress had a moral duty to cut off financing.
“If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel,” Mr. Edwards said at Riverside Church in Manhattan, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once gave a speech denouncing the American campaign in Vietnam. “Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war — use it.”

Mr. Edwards also called on fellow Democrats to support the immediate withdrawal of 50,000 troops.

In making his speech, Mr. Edwards staked out antiwar turf in the nascent Democratic presidential primary contest while challenging others to do the same — most notably Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who also voted to authorize military action in Iraq in 2002 but has yet to take a position on legislative options like withholding money. She visited Iraq on Saturday to speak with military commanders, and plans to explain her views in fuller detail when she returns Tuesday.

Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to Senator Clinton, criticized Mr. Edwards’s remarks by taking aim at the former senator’s image, promoted by aides during the last presidential election, as an optimistic and unifying figure. “In 2004 John Edwards used to constantly brag about running a positive campaign,” Mr. Wolfson said. “Today, he has unfortunately chosen to open his campaign with political attacks on Democrats who are fighting the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.”

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, another likely Democratic candidate and a longtime war critic, has stopped short of calling for a clamp on financing for Mr. Bush’s plan.

While Congressional Democrats have been fairly unified in their opposition to the president’s plan, the splits that have emerged center on how to proceed against it. Some say that Democrats won control of Congress with promises to force change and have a responsibility to do so; others warn that the party could incite accusations of undercutting the troops by limiting funds for them.

But with opinion polls showing overwhelming opposition to the president’s plan — and support for some kind of intervention by Congress — the trajectory over the past two weeks has moved toward more aggressive Congressional action.

Two Democratic senators have backed away from earlier remarks in which they expressed openness to a temporary increase in troops: Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who is the majority leader of the Senate, and Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a declared candidate for the 2008 presidential election.

Mr. Dodd said in a statement on Sunday that he planned to introduce a bill requiring Congressional authorization for the troop increase that would be similar — but not identical — to one that Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts introduced Wednesday.

Public frustration with the war, and political moves like Mr. Edwards’s on Sunday, will only heighten the pressure, especially on Democrats running for president, to put real limits or conditions on the White House war plan.

Advisers to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama — neither of whom is a declared candidate — said in interviews that the senators had yet to conclude that the financing issue was the best way to fight Mr. Bush.

Mr. Obama, on “Face the Nation” on CBS News, said: “The president has already begun these additional deployments. We, unfortunately, are not going to be voting on funding for several weeks, perhaps months.”
Howie P.S.: Obama is also quoted in a LA Times story this morning, reprinted in the Bothell Times:
Obama, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, laid out an alternative plan similar to the Iraq Study Group's. He advocated a phased pullout, along with improved reconstruction efforts and increased diplomacy that includes Syria and Iran.

"We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war," Obama said.

"I think it's important to understand that the options are not either total withdrawal or a 'stay-the-course-plus,' which is essentially what the administration is proposing, but rather the kind of thoughtful bipartisan strategy that's been suggested by not just Democrats but also Republicans, not just civilians but also by the military."
Howie opinion: Too bad the "decider" is just going on with his decisions, while Obama floats his proposals.

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