Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Democrats offer the voters a strongly worded letter

After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation.

With the midterm elections three months away, and Democrats seeing public discontent over Iraq as their best chance for retaking the House or Senate, a dozen key lawmakers told Bush in a letter: "In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. . . . We need to take a new direction."

The 12 Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), include liberals and centrists who have differed over Iraq in the past. The signers included the top Democrats on the House and Senate committees dealing with armed services, foreign relations, intelligence and military spending. Their action puts party leaders on the same page, and it helps clarify the Nov. 7 election as a choice between a party seeking a timeline for withdrawing troops from an unpopular war and a party resisting any such timetable.

For all its passion, the letter has more significance as a political statement than as a policy alternative. Most Democrats previously have embraced the general idea of beginning a troop drawdown this year, and the letter adds no specifics about how many troops should be withdrawn or how rapidly.

The Democrats have once again tiptoed up to the line of offering a plan. Of course not really. What they have offered is a talking point that can be used as an "It was our idea" if we are making enough progress to draw down troops at years end. If they were actually firm in their stance then they would run the Fall elections on a plan to defund the Iraq war effort unless the troops were out by whatever timeframe they are pretending they are going on.

The Democrats claim that everyone is on their side and they still don't have the nerve to take a stance. Does anyone trust these guys to lead in these serious times?

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