The four Senate Democrats seeking their party's presidential nomination will take their campaigns to the chamber's floor next week, pushing new limits on U.S. involvement in Iraq in an attempt to burnish their antiwar credentials.This is the other shoe dropping. We've known it was coming, since the unsuccessful antiwar legislative effort this spring. The Senate debate in May focused on legislative attempts to establish benchmarks and timetables for the Iraq mission. The congressional majority -- not just the Senate presidential wannabes -- is falling all over itself in trying not to alienate the MoveOn.org cadres. Hillary Clinton is now reversing herself with her sponsorship of the current war deauthorization attempt. That's chutzpah! Of course, she's in the highly unenviable position of having to renounce her six years of foreign policy centrism to appease the fanatical left wing of the party. She's scared to death, obviously, of Barack Obama as well, who's in a powerful position as war opponent, having not been in the Congress in 2002 to authorize the Iraq invasion.
Next week, the Senate turns to the annual Defense Department authorization bill, legislation that is becoming a magnet for Iraq-related amendments as Democrats press ahead in their quest to force President Bush to change course and begin withdrawing U.S. troops. Among those hoping to reshape the bill are a who's who of the 2008 field -- Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.).
For months, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) discouraged his caucus's 2008 candidates from taking prominent roles on Iraq, in hopes of inoculating his party from charges of politicizing the war.
But Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the Democratic leader has given up on that proposition, a decision that was probably inevitable as the party's base pushes aggressively for immediate withdrawal. Reid has assured all antiwar Democrats drafting Iraq amendments that they will get a vote during the defense policy debate -- a pledge that amounts to free airtime for the four presidential candidates.
Clinton, teaming up with Sen. Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), is lobbying other senators to support a measure that would essentially revoke the authority Congress gave Bush in 2002 to wage the war. Obama is drafting amendments to improve mental health services for veterans and to beef up oversight of military contractors. Dodd's amendment would begin troop withdrawals within a month and terminate funding for combat operations next spring.
Biden and Dodd might as well just give it up, in any case. Biden's actually a thoughtful voice on foreign policy, but he's one of the worst presidential campaigners of recent decades (plagiarism did him in 1988, and his remarks on Obama this year -- “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” -- consigned his campaign to the dust heap before it ever got off the ground). Dodd just seems like a nice guy that nobody supports -- an also ran if there ever was one, his campaign's just swirling around the presidential candidate death pool.
Thank goodness Bush rules through the "discourse of power": With a number of Senate Republicans getting on the antiwar congressional bandwagon, the "last neocon" might put up a fight long enough for American forces to succeed on the ground!