Thursday, March 29, 2007

vetoing the war

both the house and senate have now passed a war funding bill that includes a timetable to withdraw. the bills are not identical, but bush has threatened to veto whichever version comes out of conference committee--presumably including one that splits the difference between the two.

if bush follows through on his veto threat (and i expect he will), then things will get interesting. the spending bill is needed to fund ongoing operations in iraq. the defense department claims that the last spending authorization will only fund the war up until april 15th. i suspect they're being over-cautious to spur lawmakers into acting quickly , but it is clear that unless something passes soon there won't be any money to fund the operation beyond some point in the near future. if the money runs out, u.s. participation in iraq will simply stop.

so bush is in a weird bind. if he signs the bill he will have to agree to withdraw the troops within the next year. if he vetoes the bill, it could mean that the troops come home even sooner.

i don't know how bush will get out of this one. if he follows through on his veto threat (and now that he's repeated it several times, it would be even more humiliating if he didn't), he might end up forcing an immediate withdrawal of u.s. forces.

if bush were a pragmatic president, he would realize that the senate bill (which does not include a binding withdrawal requirement) might be preferable than either the house bill or the probable consequences of a veto. he probably could negotiate a deal in which the conference committee would adopt the senate language in return for rescinding his veto threat. but bush is not a pragmatic president. he seems quite willing to allow his precious iraq war end just to make it seem like he's "resolute". maybe he's just not aware that the burden is on him, not the democrats, to find a way to keep his war going.

it's really bizarre. bush's stubbornness, one of his worst characteristic IMHO, might be the best hope for a quick withdrawal of u.s. forces from iraq.1

UPDATE: it looks like the pentagon can keep things going in iraq until june, and by shifting money around, they probably can keep things going a little longer than that. but that would mean that other pentagon projects get cut. we're still talking about a shrinking pool of resources. and they've got to save enough dough to pull the people out of iraq just before the lights go out if they want to avert a real disaster.

1-the only thing that bush has going for him is the dems long history of caving under pressure. if bush vetoes the bill, there could be some dems who defect and agree to a "temporary" bill that would temporarily fund the war for a couple more months without restrictions, thus kicking the can down the road. if bush vetoes the bill that's probably what he's betting on. but the democrats have already stuck to the iraq withdrawal plan far beyond my cynical expectations. the democrats hold the ultimate trump card here, all they have to do is hold the line.