After President Bush and Democrats agreed to a compromise on funding the Iraq War back in May, the issue theoretically should have been closed until a comprehensive report on Iraq was issued in September. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to backtrack and raised the issue again in July. Although funding for our troops does mix well with politics, Reid attached an amendment from Senator Jack Reed and Senator Carl Levin to a Pentagon spending measure, requiring troop withdrawals to begin in 120 days. And although Democrats privately knew the Levin-Reed amendment had no chance of passing, Reid not only put a chokehold on troop funding by refusing to pass the spending measure without the amendment, but he also decided to call for an all-nighter in the Senate to consider the amendment, amounting to the worst political stunt in the history of the war in Iraq.
First of all, you will often hear Reid claim how he cannot ignore the voices of the American people opposing Iraq, citing statistics on how America loathes the war in Iraq. Beyond the fact that Reid obviously did not use the same logic on illegal immigration, he also ignored the voice of the American people by deciding to not wait until September. By a margin of 51 percent to 38 percent, a poll from the Rasmussen Reports indicates that Americans believe that U.S. should wait until September to change the Iraq policy. As much as people hate Bush for steadfastly ignoring public opinion on Iraq in favor of what his generals think (and they have been more outspoken lately against a premature troop withdrawal, especially Gen. Lynch), at least he consistently listens to his generals, rather than pick and choose polls about Iraq.
However, some Republican Senators can sympathize with Reid. In fact, Reid has even publicly invited Republicans to join him. Perhaps some of them will stand with him. While Reid had some success as four Republicans did defect, when you look at who did not, Reid obviously failed to capitalize on internal divisions among Republicans on Iraq.
Take for example, Senator Voinovich. Voinovich, who opposed the original nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, privately said that the Bush Administration “f***ed up” up the war in Iraq, and warned Karl Rove that Bush’s legacy stands on the line with the Iraq War, had this to say about the Reid’s proposal: “You wonder if they are more interested in politics than dealing with the substance of this.”
Or consider Senator Lugar, the former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Senator Warner, who holds the same distinction on the Armed Services Committee. The two drafted a proposal that would require Bush to create alternative plans for Iraq, including troop withdrawal. Bush would have to finish these plans in October and have them ready to use next year. Even better for Reid, Bush rejected this legislation. However, neither Warner nor Lugar then supported the Levin-Reed plan for Iraq. In fact, the two could not even get Reid to sign on to their own plan.
In addition to the Warner-Lugar proposal, other proposed plans would enforce the proposals of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group or alternatively revoke the 2002 authorization to the Iraq War. After wasting the Senate’s sleep trying to pass a proposal that Reid knew did not have enough votes to pass, you’d think he would consider one of these proposals with no strings attached. Think again. He instead completely pulled the bill from the floor, effectively ending the debate with no resolution, no funding for our troops, and no consideration of other plans. That drew even more criticism from one of the four Republicans who actually supported the Levin-Reed amendment, Senator Susan Collins.
This is not the first time Reid has done something like this either. After all, he did publicly proclaim that the war in Iraq is “lost.” Not going poorly, not losing right now but that can change, just flat out lost. I can certainly understand many Democrats like Obama and Biden who oppose the war but support our troops, but at the same time, no politician who says the war is “lost” can honestly support the troops. As bad as the conditions may be in Iraq, the only surefire way to guarantee defeat is to adopt Reid’s attitude, which goes beyond pessimism and criticism into pure defeatism.
If you asked Republicans which politician they consider the worst, the most frequent answer given is Hillary. The Republicans do not need a strong candidate in ’08 to fire up the base; Hillary winning the Democratic nomination will more than do that. However, in spite of all of this, Republicans should seriously consider putting Reid at a level below even Hillary. They still would have more respect for him than he does for our troops.
Correction Appended: The “Levin-Reed Amendment” was mistakenly referred to as the “Levin-Reid Amendment.” The Sun regrets this error.