A new poll was released yesterday and, among other things, the Pew Center for the People and the Press found that Bush has -- as I've been saying all along -- painted himself into a corner in the Iraq war funding debate. The findings show that a solid majority of americans back Congress on a timeline for troop withdrawal.
It gets better. Not only do a majority think that Bush is wrong, but a majority of those (54%) want no compromise on the issue. Bush is even losing Republicans over this. While 44% of GOP voters back Bush's approach to Iraq, 49% think we should 'Take a different approach.'
Here's what I see -- if dems stick to their guns and keep giving Bush funding bills with timelines, there is no downside (other than one caveat I'll get to later). If Bush keeps vetoing bills with restrictions, he's effectively defunding the Iraq war -- by his own hand. Democrats don't have to cut funding if Bush is more than willing to do it himself. In doing this, they would force those Republicans who back Bush to continue to make unpopular votes to sustain Bush's vetos. That'll cost them in '08.
If the nearly impossible happens and Bush caves, dems win the political contest and undying gratitude of a majority of americans.
There is one more possibility and it's a winner for absolutely no one. Bush keeps troops in Iraq -- unfunded -- and tries to blame it all on Democrats. A normal person would find this option unthinkable. But Bush is not a normal person. There is nothing too self-serving, too stupid, too stubborn, or too heartless for this compassionate conservative to try.
Writes Ronald Brownstein in the L.A. Times, "George W. Bush's presidency is devolving into an extended holding action. On too many fronts, his top priority now appears to be delaying the inevitable." In this case, the inevitable is that we pull out of Iraq and Bush's invasion is forever remembered as one of the biggest foreign policy disasters in history.
The commitment to an open-ended conflict for decades to come may be Bush's vision, but it is never going to happen. The next president, Democrat or Republican, is going to pull us out. You can't commit to this war and win a second term. It's just not going to happen.
And Bush isn't going to end this conflict in victory before he leaves office. For one, no one has any idea what the hell a 'victory' would be at this point. For another, he's George W. Bush -- the man who's proven that his only real skill is winning elections. He's the president who proves that the Peter Principle can take anyone to the top.
The Pew poll shows that the people are way ahead of the president here. The people want out. By continuing to veto legislation with restrictions, Bush will accomplish that by defunding the war himself.
But only if the Democrats in Congress listen to the people. No compromise, no bills without time tables, no giving Bush everything he wants. We can't keep fighting a war for Bush's historical legacy -- and, at this point, that's all we're fighting for. Even if that were worth all the dying, that legacy can't be salvaged. That cause is lost.
Bush, backed into a corner, will begin to pound on 9/11 again. But with 62,570 civilian deaths to date, Bush's war far exceeds that catastrophe. All we'd manage to do by committing to continued conflict would be to increase that number. It's not worth it.
Let Bush kill his own damned war.