Bad faith and bitterness
It's been clear for a long time now that the Pentagon supplemental funding bill would be a tough call for almost everyone involved. Unfortunately, as too often happens when there are genuine policy and strategy disagreements, the leadership is trying to paper over them instead of allowing an honest discussion, and that ends up just deepening the division.
There's a perfectly respectable case to be made for the leadership proposal; Thomas Nephew makes it well. But to be able to settle for the half-loaf that the Pelosi bill represents, genuinely anti-occupation members need to get a shot at the whole loaf. Barbara Lee's fully funded withdrawal bill is the alternative.
If the Dem leadership were to allow a vote on that actual withdrawal bill (which is also 'clean' in the sense of not containing a bunch of domestic spending lures that no Pentagon supplemental should have), it would probably get close to 100 votes. If Pelosi and co. had enough guts/integrity to allow that vote before the vote on the leadership version, they'd probably end up getting all but three or so of those votes on the leadership bill, too.
As it is, the leadership is forcing antiwar Dems to take their bill or nothing (unless the Rules Committee chooses this moment to defy the Speaker; I'm not holding my breath). That could cost them as many as 15 Out of Iraq votes. Whether it does or not, that approach is definitely costing goodwill both within the caucus and at the grassroots. And the bitterness will only be escalated by the kind of strong-arming and threats Pelosi is using.
Meanwhile, conservative Dems and Republicans are being lured with honey: every compromise made has been in their direction. This double standard is what's made the Out of Iraq caucus members resentful to begin with; if the sweet talk doesn't attract enough votes to give the Pelosi proposal a chance, then things are only going to get uglier.
Speaking of dishonest, manipulative treatment of "the grassroots", MoveOn's email member poll on Sunday is infuriating on several grounds. If there'd been any intent to be transparent and actually express the will of their members, they'd have:
Instead, just over 24 hours after putting out the poll, Tom Matzzie told reporters that MoveOn is backing the leadership proposal, and that it got over 80 percent support in the poll -- while declining to quote any numbers. A Daily Kos poll on Sunday, which only allowed a 'support' vs.'oppose' choice, came in at 51%-48% (7500 votes). MoveOn's report-back to its members hours after they talked to the press gave percentages, but no information on how many votes were received. Reviews ranged from harsh to balanced and sympathetic.
Update: 21 March, 4:30 pm - John Stauber got MoveOn to admit that only 126,000 members voted in the poll, and has more harsh words for the organization's tactics. One of his points should be added to my criticisms above: In addition to there being no deadline given for voting, the subject line of the email, 'Important decision on Iraq', gave no hint that the reader's participation was urgently required.
TrueMajority's poll of its members included the Lee bill as a choice, and resulted in their urging a 'no' vote on the leadership proposal. Potentially awkward, since TM is one of the sponsors of StandUpCongress, but that just increases my respect for them. The site, first announced by Tom Andrews at the United for Peace and Justice lobby day in late January, was clearly intended from the get-go to organize support for Murtha's original proposal, but that got off on the wrong foot.
To put it mildly. That snake John Harris (closet Republican operative, former Washington Post editor, now co-founder of the Albritton-owned Politico, filling the Fox News niche for Capitol Hill) inserted the phrase 'slow bleed' as a characterization of the Murtha proposal in the first paragraph of his reporter's story on Feb. 15. The RNC picked it up and ran with it within an hour of the story appearing (grim details via ThinkProgress). Pelosi and company backed off immediately, and it's been all acrimony all the time ever since.
Last week's charade in the Senate did nothing to curb suspicions that Democrats want to distinguish themselves from Republicans far more than they want to end the occupation of Iraq.
Harry Reid's H.J.Res.9, a binding resolution to start troop withdrawal within 120 days and complete it by March 2008, was only announced late the week before. But it unexpectedly came to the floor on Wednesday, March 14, after a deal between the Majority and Minority leaders late Tuesday night. Evidence of bad faith:
Democratic leaders have failed to treat antiwar members of Congress and activists with respect by backing off of agreements immediately in the face of conservative opposition, not enlisting the help of grassroots organizations early in the process to move swingable Republicans and conservative Democrats, and not offering anything but threats to bring antiwar members back onside. Then they're going to blame us when the vote fails.
It didn't have to happen this way.