The Washington Post reports that Congressional Democrats have had a major surprise. They expected to go home for the August recess and pound on Republicans for supporting the war in Iraq. Instead, they are having to change their own stance in the face of unmistakable progress in that country.
Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.
And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.
The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.
I have maintained all along that the Democratic leadership in Congress badly misread the results of the 2006 elections. They were not given a mandate to lose a war. But they chose to read it that way. It should be fairly obvious that members of Congress are hearing – loud and clear – from their constituencies that they do not want the war lost. Otherwise you would not see this kind of backpedaling. And no matter how they try to dress it up, they are backpedaling furiously.
One thing that is incredibly ironic about the whole situation is the sudden shift toward criticizing Iraqi politicians for doing nothing. Given the fact that our Congress under Democratic leadership is pretty well doing nothing, I don't think that is a really great tactic for the Democrats.