Tuesday, April 10

Showdown at the White House over Iraq

Today President Bush has decided to invite Congressional leaders to the White House for a little chat about the war. Except that it seems he plans to do nearly all the talking, especially the ultimatums.

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Tuesday invited Democrats to discuss their standoff over a war-spending bill, but he made clear he would not change his position opposing troop withdrawals. The White House bluntly said the meeting would not be a negotiation.


"At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk," Bush said. "We can discuss the way forward on a bill that is a clean bill, a bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal and without handcuffing our generals on the ground. I'm hopeful we'll see some results soon from the Congress."

That's right, Bush is going to jump up and down until he gets his blank check and try to stare the Democrats nose-to-nose until they finally blink.

But before they take their trip to Bush's would-be wood shed, Harry Reid has a few things to say.

"Iraqi leaders are not willing to take the political risk of governing their own country. That must change," Reid said. "That's what Congress is demanding. That is what the American people, by a large majority, demand. And the president should be leading us in that direction, not threatening to veto funding for our troops unless we rubber stamp his flawed plan."

Nora O'Donnel on MSNBC spoke to Tom Delay in response to Senator Reid asking Who should Blink?

(Not an exact transcript)

Delay: I hope the Democrats do. They're starving the troops, causing them to extend thier tours, not getting them the equipment they need. The American people won't support that.

In point of fact the American People overwhelmingly support a change in direction for the Iraq Conflict.

AP/IPSOS April 2-4:

  • 64% of those polled say they "Disapprove" of how George Bush has handled the War in Iraq.
  • 59% feel that going to War with Iraq was "A Mistake"
  • 50% say the War is "Hopeless"

Newsweek Poll March 28:

  • 57% support the Senate's call for a troop withdrawl by March 2008

CBS Poll March 26-27:

  • 59% feel that the U.S. should pull all troops out by Sept 2008.

Delay also stated that the President is more popular than Congress now, a point which Nora - rather uncharacteristically - argued with stating that Congress has a 40% approval rating while the President is still in the 30% range. Delay countered that the USA Today poll had the President at 38% and the Congress at 32%.

Delay: You have your poll and I have mine...

In point of fact USA Today/Gallup does have the President at 38% and the Congress at 33% while the AP Poll from the same day has the President at 35% and Congress at 40%. Exactly why there's a 7 point swing in the Congressional approval ratings is not clear.

[Update: It should be noted that either stat is a significant uptick from where the 109th finished it's tenure according to NBC/Wall Street (16%) and Gallup (23$) last October]

Regardless of who's more popular right now, it's clear that Delay obvious got his latest talking points fax and that Bush is refusing to back down.

"We're at war," Bush said. "It is irresponsible for the Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds they need to succeed."

As Thinkprogress has pointed out it was only been 57 days since Bush requested the latest supplemental funding bill and Democratic Congress passed it. By comparison previous requests took the Republican Congress 119 days in 2006 and 86 days in 2005.

In fact according to reports from Congressional Research Service, our Troops have plenty of funds for the next few months and are far from "starving".

In a memo to the Senate Budget Committee dated Wednesday, the congressional analysts said the Army has enough money in its existing budget to fund operations and maintenance through the end of May — about $52.6 billion. If additional transfer authority is tapped, subject to Congress approving a reprogramming request, the Army would have enough funds to make it through nearly two additional months, or toward the end of July. Using all of its transfer authority, the Army could have as much as $60.1 billion available.

And as a matter of fact, Bush has already begun to tap into his reserves - even though he doesn't really need to yet.

Bush said the Defense Department will soon send Congress a request to transfer $1.6 billion from other military accounts to cover funding for troops — a move needed, he said, because lawmakers have delayed his emergency spending request. He warned that continued delays would undermine troop training, slow the repair of equipment and force soldiers to serve longer tours of duty.

Even though he is clearly trying to put increased pressure on the Democrats, the clear question is whether the Republican caucus will hold. Inspite of Congressional Republicans who have vowed to support a Presidential Veto, Harry Reid has already put forward an even more aggressive bill.

The final decision on exactly what direction we'll take in Iraq may be decided quite soon - will it follow the path that the vast majority of the American public want and prove that "Elections Have Consequences" - or will the President stamp his foot and have his way?

Reid: The President now has to deal with A Congress, he hasn't had that before. [The Republicans] would just rubber-stamp anything he wanted.

That time is over.

Just the fact that we are no long even discussing the "escalation" but are instead arguing the over the timeline for withdrawal and what we truly need - A Force Transition Plan to hand-over responsibility to the Iraqis - is already a step in the right direction.

It won't be long now.


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