Kagro has condemned those GOP appropriations members for their no vote on the supplemental funding bill. For good reason, because the individual "support the troops" amendments that they opposed showed their hands and their willingness to put politics before the troops. We've seen far too many votes for funding this war that ignored the needs of the troops, that sent them to war with inadequate training, inadequate armor, and repeat deployments that are destroying the health, morale, and strength of our troops.
But as the House leadership continues to whip for tomorrow's supplemental vote, it's becoming more and more clear that this is a vote of conscience for many. It's also becoming clear that not all "no" votes are created equal. A "no" vote on this supplemental can come from a strong, principled opposition to this president, this war, and the desire to see it end as quickly as possible.
Consider John Lewis:
"I will not and cannot vote for another dollar or another dime to support this war."
"If a good piece of legislation is one that doesn’t please anybody, well maybe this is good legislation. But I walk grudgingly toward it."
Asked what he found troubling about the current legislation, Mr. Stark snapped, "What’s to like?"
These three, as do all members, have one of the toughest votes in their careers facing them. The calculus for ending the war, for the party, for the prospects of a Democratic president being elected in 2008 are weighing on every Democratic representative. In that calculus, there must remain room for members to vote their conscience, to vote "no" not out of contrariness but out of principle and the conviction that we could do better. On the flip, there are members, like Carol Shea-Porter, who firmly believe that this is the best we'll be able to get and will be casting a "yes" vote, a vote that would otherwise be out of character for them.
We should question, though, if this is the best we'll ever be able to get. It might be so in the short term, but why do we have to act definitively in the short term? The message we've been hearing over and over from the leadership is that whatever bill comes up next is going to be even weaker, but why does that have to be?
In this, I'd ask House Democrats to consider the advice of political observer Tom Edsall:
The resolution — more precisely, a set of deals intended to paper over intraparty factions — is the result of a process better suited to a highway bill than national security.... It also risks setting the Democrats up for a poisonous share of responsibility for the failure of United States foreign policy, while amplifying questions regarding Democratic competence on military matters.....
Remember: for much of the American public, the Bush administration’s mismanagement — its unwillingness to plan for the aftermath of the invasion, its misuse of intelligence data and its destruction of worldwide support — still need to be explicitly spelled out. Democrats should devote the next two years to convincing voters that accountability for the record levels of violence, calcifying sectarian divisions, and increasing numbers of daily casualties belongs to the White House — and, by proxy, to the Republican Party....
Rather than passing hurried and porous legislation, Democrats would do better to make their priority public documentation of the Republican failure in Iraq, while taking the time to finally devise a strong, smart, coherent stance on how they’ll handle terrorism, national security and the Middle East.
Keeping the fault of this war and its mismanagement firmly on GOP shoulders is critical for the party's future and for gaining support of moderate and wavering Republicans in Congress to abandon Bush and his debacle. That will take some time, time that the Democrats actually do have.