An American Congress has got itself into a war it can't win. It is stuck. Can't move forward, can't move back. And Congress is starting to take casualties. It doesn't know which way to turn. It's a quagmire.
The situation is dire, and congressmen everywhere are increasingly beleaguered. They have been unable to come up with any strategy for success, but more seriously, they haven't been able to agree on a strategy for failure. One of their leading lights, Rep. John Murtha, has already been reduced to an object of derision and the danger is he will drag more of them down with him.
Congress spent four days ... four days! ... yammering earnestly, and then cast a strong, uncompromising, forceful non-binding resolution with a self-negating caveat. The president of the United States, in reaction to this devastating congressional shock-and-awe campaign, said, "Thank you, that was interesting."
Since then, the Senate minority, wielding flimsy, antiquated procedural weapons, has tied down the Democratic juggernaut in the Senate.
The situation is increasingly desperate. Americans, who had seen in the Democratic Congress a chance to extricate themselves from an unpopular conflict, appear to be coming to the conclusion that Bush's war is a more attractive choice than the Democratic peace. Here are some of the ugly facts on the ground:
Public Opinion Strategies found that 67 percent of voters think the country is going in the wrong direction and 60 percent think Iraq has no future as a stable democracy. But 57% believe "The Iraq War is a key part of the global war on terrorism" and that we have to keep our troops there and finish the job.
Hillary Clinton, trying out out-Obama Obama, is playing to the hard left in classic pre-primary strategy. That would be the 17% who favor immediate withdrawal.
A majority, 56 percent of likely voters, say "Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in Iraq because we are at war." And 53 percent say, "The Democrats are going too far, too fast in pressing the President to withdraw the troops from Iraq."
Other recent polls have found support for Bush's troop surge surging, and while opposition to the war is high, so is opposition to (a) surrender, (b) losing, (c) defeat and (d) compelling the troops do do any of them same.
This poses a frightful dilemma for Dem Cong strategists. How to surrender without giving up? How to compel defeat without being seen to cause us to lose?
Little more than a month into what was supposed to be a swift campaign to sure victory, the Democratic Congress is bogged down.
It is becoming increasingly clear that this war cannot be lost politically. It will have to be lost militarily. Hence the only clear Democratic plan to emerge so far: Murtha's plan to undercut the troops.
There is also an effort to rewrite history to favor the surrender camp, moving the goal post to impose a defacto defeat on the defiant enemy. That would be Biden-Levin to unauthorize the 2002 authorization. The only problem is, there is nothing to indicate this asymmetrical opponent wouldn't sidestep, or maybe just ignore, that manuever as well! There is also the punt. Any number of backbenchers, from John Kerry to Chris Van Hollen, now joined by skittish frontbencher Hillary, have put forward variations on the Iraq Study Group's plan for abandonment-lite and negotiations with terrorists.
How does it happen that one of the greatest political powers on Earth, the United States Congress, finds itself bogged down in a quagmire against a politically compromised, chimpy-looking lame duck president?
Congress is unwilling to shed blood in defense of its own beliefs. The great, principled Democratic Congress lacks the strength of its own convictions, and all the rhetoric in the world can't save it now. It is in a quagmire of its own.
Jules Crittenden is an editor and columnist for the Boston Herald.
Crittenden's web page is at Forward Movement.
Congressional Reinforcements Surge Into Iraq