By a decisive 86-13 vote, the U.S. Senate today rejected John Kerry’s proposal for a complete withdrawal from Iraq by July 1 of next year–a completely arbitrary date that replaced the equally arbitrary date in Kerry’s last proposal, December 31, 2006.
More Democrats supported the leadership’s odd alternative, which called for troop withdrawals to begin but specified no end date. Since the administration is already reducing troop levels and will continue to do so, it isn’t clear how, exactly, this measure would represent a change in policy. The Senate rejected it in a 60-39 vote. Lincoln Chafee voted with the Democrats, and six Democrats–Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson and Mark Dayton–voted with the Republicans.
As this AP report suggests, the Democrats’ maneuvering is all about politics:
Sensitive to talk of a divided party, Democratic aides circulated a memo from a Democratic pollster suggesting that Republicans will pay a price in November for standing with the president’s war policies.
And Ryan Sager at Real Clear Politics notes that John Kerry gave away his and the Democrats’ real perspective on the Iraq issue:
Trying to battle the naysayers, Sen. John Kerry told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night that Democrats are “unified on the most essential ingredient, which is the failure of this administration, their lack of honesty with the American people about what is really happening in Iraq. We’re unified about the fact that you need to begin redeployment of American forces now. I think there is a unity in moving in a new direction.”
Yes, being unified on the general concept of thinking the Bush administration has screwed up is the “most essential” issue facing America today. Very inspiring. It’s a wonder how he lost in ’04.
Meanwhile, the New York Times worries that those evil Republicans are going to dodge the bullet once again: “GOP Decides to Embrace War as Issue”:
Just a few weeks ago, some Republicans were openly fretting about the war in Iraq and its effect on their re-election prospects, with particularly vulnerable lawmakers worried that its growing unpopularity was becoming a drag on their campaigns.
But there was little sign of such nervousness on Wednesday as Republican after Republican took to the Senate floor to offer an unambiguous embrace of the Iraq war and to portray Democrats as advocates of an overly hasty withdrawal that would have grave consequences for the security of the United States.
The Republicans’ advantage is that when they talk about Iraq, they are saying what they really believe: that the terrorists are evil and must be defeated. The terrorists have chosen to make Iraq the key front in their war against Western civilization, and to surrender in that conflict would be disastrous. What the Democrats actually believe is anyone’s guess.
One more thing: we rarely agree with Mark Dayton about much of anything. But since he announced his retirement from the Senate in January, he has voted his conscience on a number of issues, today’s vote among them. So I salute him for being willing to part company with most of his fellow Democrats on the most vital, life-and-death issue of the day.