A couple of very interesting articles this morning that are already getting a lot of attention from the blogosphere. First, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has warned that if the progress report due from General Petraeus in September is fairly positive, the Democrats could split on trying to withdraw American troops from Iraq.
Clyburn, in an interview with the washingtonpost.com video program PostTalk, said Democrats might be wise to wait for the Petraeus report, scheduled to be delivered in September, before charting next steps in their year-long struggle with President Bush over the direction of U.S. strategy.
Clyburn noted that Petraeus carries significant weight among the 47 members of the Blue Dog caucus in the House, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats. Without their support, he said, Democratic leaders would find it virtually impossible to pass legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal.
"I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us," Clyburn said. "We, by and large, would be wise to wait on the report."
That is not good news for the left wing, of course. But there is what is very likely much worse news coming from another story. The only Muslim elected to the House, Keith Ellison, who is a Democrat, has just returned from Iraq with a very, very positive report on progress. Oh, they still don't favor the war, but they are also backing away – sharply – from the cut and run strategy of the Congressional leadership.
Ellison, a vocal critic of the Iraq war, said he still believes it was a mistake for the U.S. to invade Iraq.
"But there are 150,000 American soldiers there now, and I care very deeply about them," said Ellison, one of six members on the all-freshman trip led by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. "I also care about the Iraqi people. I don't want to see them suffer."
The group met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, "we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market."
There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials.
"The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership," he said. "So they're not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they're doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives."
Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with "as-salama aleikum," meaning peace be upon you.
"And they would respond back with smiles and waves," Ellison said. "I don't want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good."
McNerney, the California congressman, also said he saw signs of progress in Ramadi and was impressed by Petraeus, who argued in favor of giving President Bush's troop surge strategy time to work.
McNerney said he still favors a timeline to get troops out of Iraq — something House leaders may bring to the floor again this week as part of a defense spending bill — but is open to crafting it in a way more favorable to generals' wishes.
The left went into full overdrive yesterday to try to discredit the two fellows from the Brookings Institution who argued that progress was being made. Cracks are beginning to show at this point. I rather suspect that some Democrats are beginning to see that they are painting themselves into a corner by following the lead of Reid and Pelosi.