The phrase out of Capital Hill today was "withdrawal is not an option. Surrender is not a solution," declared by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, characterizing Democrats as defeatists.
In an 86-13 vote, the Senate turned back a proposal from some Democrats, Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts; Russ Fiengold, D-Wisconsin; Barbara Boxer, D-California; and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, that would require the administration to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007, with redeployments beginning this year. No Republicans voted in favor of the plan. The amendment would have established a withdrawal timetable.
Minutes later, the Senate rejected by 60-39, mostly along party lines, the proposal more popular with Democrats, a non-binding resolution authored by Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island that would call for the administration to begin withdrawing troops but with no timetable for the war's end.
The votes come a week after both houses of Congress soundly rejected withdrawal timetables for the 127,000 troops in Iraq, and as polls show voters are weary about the war in its fourth year. Republicans have in both houses of Congress, argued the United States must stay put to help the fledgling Iraqi government.
These last two points I find particularly interesting. First, every poll indicates voters are weary about the war, regardless of Party persuasion. This should be a sign for politicians to offer solutions to voter weariness. The Democrat’s have tried to do this, though as their performance in the Senate today exhibited their weakness: they cannot even agree on opposition points, much to Republican glee. The second point is the argument that the US must stay to help the Iraqi government. Offering a timetable with non-fixed dates might do the opposite of what most Republicans fear. It might actually help, not harm, the Iraqi government.
What I mean is this, such a published move would invariably strengthen the legitimacy of the new government in the eyes of the Iraqi citizens. That is after all, what the President’s recent trip was meant to do. It is the citizens of Iraq that need to be reassured that the US will actually leave. Insurgents will continue to destroy and disrupt daily life. A timetable will not change that, but it will push the Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi government into action. If they want their country back, and by all accounts they do, then they would see in any timetable, confidence, by the US, in them. Let us surrender what they need, want, and deserve.