In the Arena

I Remain Bi

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Matt Yglesias makes some interesting arguments, as always, in this LA Times op-ed. The foreign policy priesthood has certainly wobbled from wrong to incoherent on the war–and the embarrassing squirmings of Michael O’Hanlon in an attempt to respond to criticisms that I and others made don’t help much. This part is especially painful:

“Ultimately, politics trumps all else,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “If the political stalemate goes on, even if the military progress continued, I don’t see how I could write another Op-Ed saying the same thing.”

Speaking of politics, though, there is a hole in Yglesias’s argument: The only way to build a veto-proof majority to force a change in Bush’s war policy is by luring Republicans onto the team. Indeed, the more I think of Harry Reid’s refusal to allow a vote on the bipartisan Salazar-Alexander amendment (which would implement the findings of the Iraq Study Commission), the more perplexed I get.

Salazar-Alexander (henceforth known as S-A), in all its toothless glory, is the best first step toward getting the policy changed. I suspect there would have been pretty damn near, and possibly more than, the 60 votes for S-A necessary to put an official change of war policy on Bush’s desk…which the President, of course, would have vetoed. So what’s the use of that?

It is a first step. It lays the predicate for the coming autumnal battle over the war. It creates a politically comfortable place for Republicans to join with Democrats. It establishes that Bush is flouting a bipartisan movement. It puts him even more on the defensive.

The second step would come after the Petraeus testimony: Numerous Republicans, like Senator Mitch McConnell, have indicated that they’re off the bus come September. An amped-up (Update: by which I mean much stronger) version of S-A might get a veto-proof majority then. If Bush vetoes, is overruled and still proceeds with his policy, he is looking at a full-blown Constitutional Crisis (and, unlike the current, complicated, legalistic Gonzalez etc. situations, a crisis that the public could understand and sympathize with). At that point, he might be facing the threat of some major resignations–from the military, perhaps even from the Secretary of Defense.

I suspect Bush would change policy rather than be impeached. If you actually want to see the policy changed–and not just have the satisfaction of perpetually venting against an awful President–the bipartisan route is the only way to go. (Update: And don’t forget, in practical political terms, this would visit untold amounts of pain and suffering on the GOP presidential candidates, who would be forced to take a position pro or con–my guess is that all except McCain would separate themselves from Bush at this point.) It could happen as soon as next month. If the Democrats are smart about it.