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Senate Republicans and the White House Outflanked Again by Democrats on Iraq

10:21 AM, Nov 16, 2005 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Let's not kid ourselves. The GOP walked right into a Democratic trap yesterday, and the newspaper headlines today are the early result. First, Republicans let months pass before countering the Democratic drumbeat that the President "lied us into war," despite the mountain of material available to refute the charge. Then last week the White House decided to fight back. The president went on offense during a Veterans Day speech followed by other senior officials pointing out the hypocrisy and distortions of Democratic leaders. In his speech, the president rightly stated:

Last month, the world learned of a letter written by al Qaeda's number two leader, a guy named Zawahiri. And he wrote this letter to his chief deputy in Iraq -- the terrorist Zarqawi. In it, Zawahiri points to the Vietnam War as a model for al Qaeda. This is what he said: "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam -- and how they ran and left their agents -- is noteworthy." The terrorists witnessed a similar response after the attacks on American troops in Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993. They believe that America can be made to run again -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

But then yesterday hit. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin sponsored a resolution calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq based on specific timetables. Republicans sponsored a weaker alternative, sponsored by Sen. John Warner, stripped of the specific timetable language. Levin's lost. Warner's won. Victory for Republicans? No. One only has to skim a few papers this morning to get a sense of the signal the US Senate sent the American people yesterday. The Washington Post's headline, "Senate Presses for Concrete Steps Toward Drawdown of Troops from Iraq," sums up what is on the front page of many papers across the nation. It isn't, "Republicans Call for Victory; Democrats for Withdrawal."

In addition, some Republicans are asking today why the Senate leadership didn't offer a simple alternative to Levin that stated that the Democratic withdrawal resolution is a plan for defeat in Iraq, would send a bad signal to our enemies (as President Bush warned in his Veterans Day speech) and that we must do what it takes to win, period. Instead, many Republicans didn't see the text of the GOP alternative until minutes before the vote and, on an issue of great significance to U.S. national security policy, a whopping four minutes of debate was allotted to each resolution.

What a way to run the world's greatest deliberative body.