The Pelosi promise to leave funding for the Iraq occupation unmolested, however, is troubling. People want the war stopped and the troops brought home, and the purse strings are the most effective way to accomplish this. Setting a firm date for the cessation of funds creates a hard line that cannot be crossed, and would require the administration to actively begin preparations for an end to our involvement in the conflict. Pelosi's promise removes that very large club from the arsenal.
There is more to this, of course, than simple political cowardice. Democrats who don't want to empower the "You don't support the troops!" demagoguery that is sure to come in the wake of any meddling with the war budget. "Stop funding the war" is easy to say, but the gritty details of a budget like this complicate matters. Killing the Iraq budget could also kill funding the rehabilitation of wounded veterans, health benefits and other vital programs embedded in the bill. Beyond the threat of political browbeating lives the actual threat of screwing the very soldiers the Democrats wish to help.
Deep in the bowels of the piece is my candidate for 'quote of the day':
Democratic Representative Charles Rangel nailed the problem in his usual blunt fashion. "If my black ass was in Korea during the war and people got fed up with it," said Rangel, "and they cut off the money so I couldn't get some snowshoes or underwear, well, goddamn, you are cutting the wrong people." (my em)
It comes down to this. If Pelosi and her people are unwilling to navigate the dangerous waters surrounding the Iraq budget, they had better be prepared for a loud roar of outrage from the base of the party. Further, if they have chosen to leave aside the most direct way to end the war, their main task now is to come up with an equally effective plan to terminate the occupation. If the Democrats merely shrink from this tough fight, they will have proven to be as cowardly and tone-deaf as the fellow bunkered down at 1600 Pennsylvania.
I don't think anyone's talking about cutting off funding to the troops, but we better talk about snatching the wallet (and, more importantly, the credit card) back from Bush.