Friday, February 09, 2007

The Congressional "Iraq Catch 22"

Reading the results from the latest A.P. poll on public approval for the Democratically controlled Congress provides some very key insights Congressional leadership would do well to consider going forward.

Congress enjoys a modest bounce in overall public esteem, but still has a disapproval rating at 58%. Most of the gain appears to have come from a swing in the opinions of Democrats with Congressional approval swinging from a mere 9% last fall to 39% currently.

The reason this bounce in opinion has not been a trampoline type skyward launch is because of Congressional inability to effectually deal with the war in Iraq. Non binding resolutions about the major issue confronting this nation is not sufficient in the opinion of the majority of the American people. And frankly, we the people are right about this.

Thus, when MSNBC's coverage of this story talks of the Iraq catch 22, I think they use the right phrase for the wrong reason. In their article they quote Diane Bania of Florida as saying:
"They are caught in a Catch-22, because Iraq is the thing that's on most people's minds and it has to be dealt with, and it leaves very little time and energy to do anything else,"
If only Congress would do the right thing, it would not matter how much time or energy they sucked out of other issues to get it right on Iraq. If Congress acted decisively to stop the surge into Iraq public approval for them would increase dramatically. The Iraq catch 22 then is the inability of the Congress to do the right thing regarding Iraq, because they are afraid of being perceived as weak on terrorism and security, even when doing the right thing would accrue to their short term benefit in the polls. Why this seeming disconnect one might ask?

Because what happens in Iraq going forward is going to be ugly and disastrous no matter who controls policy in Washington. Looking at this in the long term, rather than short term, if Congress were to get a spine and stand up to this surge then whatever happens afterwards will be painted as the fault of Congress. Nevermind the four years of unmitigated disaster and folly that have led us here. Congressional leadership would rather have what is coming to be the Presidents doing entirely, not theirs partially.

Frankly, from a strictly long term politically cynics point of view, this might be sound strategy too. To play the cynical devils advocate here, the Iraq mistake is not going to have a happy ending, so why not continue to put that on the Republicans rather than getting involved to bring this to a painful close sooner, rather than dragging it out for a painful close later. If George Bush is successful in foisting off the responsibility to the next President, we'll cross that bridge when we get there I guess.

I may think the Congress are a markedly better bunch now that Pelosi and Reid are seeing to affairs, but I must admit that this punt the ball strategy on Iraq is a disappointment for me. And I believe the rest of the nation feels that way too. The question is, if Democratic leadership gets the notion that lack of action on Iraq is causing dissatisfaction with the public, are they going to be able to justify doing the right thing, and taking some of the blame for the inevitable disaster? That is the Iraq catch 22.

There is one further catch to the Iraq catch 22. As the Democrats proceed with the oversight so missing from the Republican rubberstampers, the evident need to close down the quagmire in Iraq will become ever more apparent. The more Democrats do their job, the more they will be pushed to stop the Iraq adventure. The Democratic leadership may wind up pushing themselves into a position where they have to take partial ownership for the ending of the disaster, because to do anything less would be even more politically damaging.

So far this post has been mainly about my perceptions of what everyone else is thinking. My thinking follows the following logic. The President has proceeded in a wrong headed fashion at every point. It is up to the Congress to bring an end to this, and the sooner the better. There will be lots of squealing from the right blaming Democrats for the mess we leave behind, and these righties may even be able to sway a few voters with all the heat they are certain to generate. However history will know, as will the masses of people, that this is due to the administrations many obvious errors. The few voters swayed by the blather of the right will be more than offset by the many voters who see the truth of the matter. It is time for the Congress to get some courage and stop the Bush generated quagmire, because it is the right thing to do.

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