Saturday, May 05, 2007

Smith Spills: GOP Sens Will Desert Bush by Sept. W/O Turnaround

I generally hate the kind of article Charles Babbington put together for the AP yesterday; that they have for so long been smarmily focused on Democrats only gives me a little Schadenfreude to see the pundit class start clucking its tongues at Republican dissention--now that their hand is the bad one. The typical avenue in these hack jobs is to quote consultants, unnamed aides and even anonymous Congresspeople in order to build a frame that then bounces around the Beltway reinforcing itself until it becomes conventional wisdom.

But Babbington achieves a rare feat: backing up an analysis-style political piece with actual on-the-record quotes from Members of Congress. Unless they were badly quoted the thesis--that the Republicans are starting to get sweaty about following Bush once more into the breach, dear friend--appears supported by the testimony of them that should know.

What's interesting to Oregonians about this article is that Gordon Smith is one of the people who decided to unshackle himself from vagueness and talk openly about where the Party is headed. What's even more interesting is the big signal flare he throws up for Harry Reid that says "Hold out until September," which is when the new fiscal year's appropriation would come due:
Sen. Gordon Smith (news, bio, voting record) of Oregon, one of two Senate Republicans to oppose the latest spending bill for the conflict, said the war "is a problem because it's defining our party to the American people, and the American people have lost faith in this cause."

"Many Republican colleagues are simply waiting until September," he said, citing the deadline Bush gave to Army Gen. David Petraeus for a progress report on the war. Unless there is a dramatic turnabout by then, Smith said, the party's near-unanimity is almost certain to fracture. [emph me]
I had heard an uncertain and uncorroborated rumor to this effect, that the GOP was waiting for the new budget before deciding whether or not to bail, but this is the first time I've seen anyone in the know actually admit it. (Interestingly, Jack Kingston of Georgia put the timeframe for panic at more like two months--which coincidentally is about the time frame that Democrats are potentially looking to use as an option for replacing the supplemental bill that was vetoed: only giving funding for a couple months at a time. Coincidence, or actual strategy by the Dems? The heart flutters.)

How does this not put Mitch McConnell in a sticky situation? Here he's trying to keep everybody in line behind Bush, and Gordon has just told everyone that their ranks will fold if things aren't better by September. My God, he set a timetable and emboldened the enemy! Traitor! Traitor! Help, usher!

So, is Gordo going to be wingnutta non grata at the Senate cafe next week? He's already not exactly sitting at the cool Senators' table, given his apparent defection on the war; this is just twisting the knife in, and I can't for the life of me figure what would make him spill the beans on record. Why is Yahoo's headline not Senator: GOP Colleagues Will Cave on War by September? There's your news, right there.

There's no doubt anymore that the Democrats can assert themselves professionally and smartly on this issue, force some very uncomfortable votes, and slowly peel away Republicans until either 2/3 is reached or Bush backs down. One's heart may say that any kind of funding at this point is a death warrant for people who shouldn't have to die for our political sloth, but the reality is that the killing won't stop as soon as some of us want it to. The key appears to be putting pressure on Republicans by forcing them to record votes they are becoming uncomfortable with, and that means the compromise of letting funding go through--so that Republicans and the President are forced to justify their continued support of the plan.

We now know that even by summer, when the current monies are supposed to run out, some Republicans may feel too much heat and vote for retrenchment and withdrawal. But at latest, the case must be made by September that the war is unwinnable, the Republicans won't let us leave, and the Democrats will. I think Smith knows his caucus, and while I have no idea why he is blabbing the party's point of intolerance for pain, I trust that he's correct. Democrats, you have your marching orders. Gordon, go sit in the corner and put this cap on.