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Democrats Trying to Change the Narrative

5:22 PM, May 29, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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The New York Times reports on the problems that Democrats are having in convincing their base that they're not responsible for the continuation of the Iraq war--that it's the president and Congressional Republicans who are at fault:

No one would mistake Peter A. DeFazio for a supporter of the Iraq War. One of the House's most liberal members, the Oregon Democrat voted against authorizing the war in 2002, and this year he's been a reliable vote for measures to withdraw U.S. troops. When Democratic leaders agreed last week to give President Bush a war funding bill without withdrawal timetables, DeFazio was an instant "no" vote.

But even DeFazio hasn't been immune to complaints from the party's liberal base. Last week, on the morning after the funding deal was announced, he vented his frustration in a telephone call to the Air America radio station in Portland. Anyone upset that Congress hasn't ended the war, he said, should focus on persuading more House members to support a withdrawal of troops - not "waste their time" on the 169 Democrats and two Republicans who voted for a withdrawal earlier this month.

DeFazio has a point--the Iraq appropriations bill that the president will sign could not have passed without strong Republican support. But after months of promising that the Congress wouldn't give the president any more 'blank checks' on Iraq, the speaker has led her party to do just that. Of course, that's not how she sees it:

The funding bill's passage "was the start of a whole new direction in Iraq," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. "I think that the president's policy is going to begin to unravel now."

If this were the case, you have to wonder why it took so long to get started on this 'new direction.'

Liberal anti-war groups don't seem to be buying the argument, either:

And MoveOn organizers said Democrats also are likely to see skirmishes in their districts.

"This is not partisan anymore. This is not about staying away from Democrats to make them look good or attacking all Republicans to make them look bad," said Susan Shaer, cochairwoman of the Win Without War coalition. "We don't care who you are or whether we usually like you. This vote was wrong."

Some Democrats have even claimed that they never had power to cut off funds in the first place--that the president has 'Food and Forage' authority to continue the Iraq operation even in the face of a Congressional withdrawal of funding. (Imagine what would have happened if the president or vice president had suggested the existence of such authority!)

It's true that the support of Congressional Republicans was necessary to pass the bill, but it's equally true that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid had it in their power to deny funds for the war. They could have refused to bring up funding legislation--and they should have if they really believed that Iraq is not worth 'one more drop' of American blood. There was never any compulsion to fund the troops--only a reasonable fear that the voters might punish Democrats for not doing so.

Whatever faults this administration may have, fear of doing what they believe to be right in Iraq--regardless of the political consequences--is not one of them. The only reason the president won this showdown is because Democrats do have that fear.