The Democrats Punt

Nancy Pelosi says that the Democrats will have an “issue agenda” for next year’s Congressional elections, but it will not include a position on Iraq:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad.

Hey, that’s the bold and courageous leadership we’ve come to expect from the Democrats. The reality is that the split among Democrats on Iraq goes beyond different views of policy and tactics. Some Democrats, to their credit, want the U.S. to win the war and want democracy in Iraq to succeed. Others do not. That’s a pretty tough gap to bridge.

Meanwhile, the Democrats also blocked extension of the Patriot Act this morning, as the Republican leadership found it did not have the votes to overcome the Democrats’ promised filibuster. So, as of January 1, the federal government will not have the tools to fight international terrorists that it has had for many years to fight domestic organized crime.

This morning, I wrote about the New York Times’ publication of leaked classified information about a National Security Agency program involving monitoring of international communications between persons in America and known terrorists overseas. Many have wondered about the timing of the story; the Times says that it sat on the story for a year. Some have surmised that the Times was trying to take yesterday’s election in Iraq off the front page. I think a more plausible theory is that the paper wanted to give cover to the Democrats’ filibuster of the Patriot Act. The Associated Press says:

[T]he Patriot Act’s critics got a boost from a New York Times report saying Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people inside the United States. Previously, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations.

“I don’t want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care,” said Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.

It would be interesting to know to what extent the Times coordinates the timing of its stories with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

UPDATE: James Taranto makes a good point:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on the day [Rep. John] Murtha offered his plan [for immediate surrender], “As for Iraq policy, at the right time, we’ll have a position.”

Didn’t the Democrats use to complain that President Bush didn’t have a plan? Now–three years, two months and six days after Congress voted to declare war–they’re promising that they’ll get around to coming up with a position real soon now.

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