Friday, March 23, 2007

The Democrats' Turn to Spend Political Capital

I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on ...
- George W. Bush at a press conference shortly after winning the 2004 election Link to Transcript

There is an old truism that if someone tells you to think of anything except pink elephants, you will immediately think of pink elephants. I told myself to write about anything else besides the White House going Britney over something, so, of course, all I can think of is how hypocritical and disingenuous the administration is being in light of the House vote including a provision in the bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the troops had to be pulled out of Iraq no later than September 2008.

When Bush won the 2004 election, as the quote at the head of this piece illustrates, he was very quick to say that his victory meant the American people had given him the right -- political capital -- to follow through on the agenda he put forth in his campaign. What a difference two years make. In November 2006, the Democrats were handed both houses of Congress by the American people with one loud, clear, unmistakable, and unequivocal message: Bush has screwed us in Iraq, and we are pissed off, so go do something about it. That is it. The voters were not voting for the Democrats, they were voting against the president.

Now that the political capital is on the other side of the aisle, Bush no longer wants to hear about it. When the Democrats went to spend their very limited capital by voting for a limit to the commitment of troops in Iraq, just as they were instructed to by the voters, Bush called the Democrats' actions "political theater." Yahoo!/AP Story How is it that when the president wins at the polls, he has political capital, but when the Democrats try and carry out the mandate from their election, they are engaging in political theater?

Bush's logic is, well, illogical. His argument is that since he has said he would veto any bill with a timetable, the Democrats know they can't win, so to pass a bill they know won't be signed into law is just grandstanding. In other words, Bush told them that he won't let them win, so they shouldn't try and win. As usual, disagreement with the administration's policies is not viewed as a difference in opinion, but as an attack on the administration.

Bush said, "These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal and their pet spending projects." Yahoo!/AP Story Like I have been writing for days, the Bush administration is far more interested in diverting attention from the facts on the ground than having to debate the actual facts, because they would be left with a losing case in front of the electorate. I don't believe Bush (or nearly anyone else, for that matter), honestly believes the Democrats are trying to delay funding the troops, restrict the commanders or in some other way hurt the soldiers or the country.

But to hear Bush talk about, it is obvious that the Democrats are just playing politics. I mean, what else could possibly explain the Democrats' actions? Let's give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) a shot at answering that question: "The American people have lost faith in the president's conduct of this war. The American people see the reality of the war, the president does not." Yes, right, the American people voted the Democrats into office to do this very thing. See, with all of the administration's diversion tactics, I nearly forgot.

The Democrats won the 2006 election with a very narrow set of marching orders: Check the president on Iraq. The Democrats, much to my surprise and delight, got the message and are doing what they were elected to do. Bush can try and make people forget that fact by throwing out accusations like "political theater" all he wants. None of that changes the fact that the Democrats are simply doing what they were elected to do.

So, Mr. President, what comes around, goes around. You had your political capital in 2004, and you spent it, leaving us with two extremist right wing Supreme Court justices, tax cuts for the rich, a spiraling national debt, no curbs on greenhouse gases, a chain of scandals in the executive branch and a quagmire in Iraq that has paralyzed U.S. military and foreign policy options, resulting in a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and Iran completely unchecked. The American people spoke in November 2006, and your political capital account is down to zero.

But, the Democrats' political capital coffers have a small balance, and they are about to spend it on the exact budget item it was put there for: stopping Bush from maintaining a disastrous war in Iraq. To accuse the Democrats of playing politics by following the mandate of the American people is disingenuous. This president is out of political capital. The problem is, he doesn't realize it. And it is the American people who are paying the price.