Joe’s right that, for all the anger and frustration we are hearing today from the Democratic base, there was never much chance that their leaders were going to hold to setting deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq. Despite the leadership’s public statements, the guidance that reporters were getting on background from generally reliable leadership sources was that they had pretty much given up on setting deadlines, at least in this round. They were banking on bringing Republicans along on meaningful benchmarks.
They miscalculated that one. The reporting requirements contained in the bill that will come up for a vote this week are pretty weak. Despite sending signals of flexibility, the Republicans didn’t budge. Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley tells me, “the Administration leaned hard on them not to go very far, and for whatever reason, they are hanging together, even if it takes them over a cliff.”
National polls are pretty meaningless in figuring out where things go from here. Lawmakers keep their eyes more closely trained on their own constituents. A vote that makes sense for someone from San Francisco or New York can be fatal in Indiana or Texas. Last week’s vote on the McGovern amendment–the strongest measure to end the war that has reached the House floor–was telling in that regard. While the number of Democratic votes in favor of a troop pullout stunned Democratic leaders, the freshman class was split.
The August recess will be crucial. This is the time when lawmakers will be hearing most directly from their constituents, face to face. It will help determine their frame of mind in that all-important make-or-break September period in which the verdict is expected to come in on the surge’s success, or lack of it.