Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Power Play or Power Outage?

President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq in a "surge" in an attempt to bring order to the country. But the surge may have run into a roadblock in the form of legislation introduced by Masschusetts Senator Ted Kennedy which would deny funding for the troops unless Congress agrees.

At first glance, this seems like a slam dunk for the Democrats. With their control of Congress, it means they control expenditures under the Constitution and, thus, can withhold funds. And I have to admit they have a point to an extent. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how Kennedy's bill gets debated and whether it will pass Constitutional muster, since the President has the power to wage war under the Constitution and Kennedy's bill could be seen as a Congressional attempt to usurp that power.

But this potential Constitutional conflict has some potential pitfalls as well. From purely a public relations standpoint, the Kennedy bill can backfire quickly because it sets Democrats up to look like partisan obstructionists using troops for a purely political purpose. People may not like the course the war has taken, but I'm not sure they'll stand for using the troops as political pawns. I truly believe that's one reason Republicans lost control of Congress: voters believed Republicans used the troops to further their own political ends.

There's another pitfall to consider. Seems the new Democratic leadership has said in the past that they support troop increases. Nancy Pelosi said on "Meet the Press" that she supported an increase to troop levels. And Harry Reid said last month that he also supported such an increase. And now...they're saying they don't. That's a pretty big hurdle to overcome, and so far they haven't come across with any reason why they're changing their minds.

Finally, there's an expectation of Democrats right now. They swept into power promising to make government work for the people again. They promised a change in leadership style, but the Kennedy bill shows they really don't. Once they got into power again, they started to throw their weight around instead of building consensus. Not a very good way to kick off an atmosphere of cooperation...

It will be interesting to see who gets the upper hand on this. Although Kennedy's bill has at least some Constitutional grounding, it may not go over too well with the voters, and it could cost them control of Congress in 2008.

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