The Corner

The Goal Is A “Veto-Proof Coalition”

The headline of this Congressional Quarterly post is pretty funny:

“Anti-War Movement Stuck in Quagmire”

The author, David Nather, provides a useful summary of the past couple of months of anti-war activism, in Washington and elsewhere, and observes that it hasn’t accomplished much. Few votes have shifted in Congress. The public-relations battle over Gen. Petraeus didn’t go well for the surrender caucus. And the way ahead, negotiating with Republicans to craft a compromise that can actually pass and sustain a veto, will likely mean softening the congressional intervention so much that the anti-war core of the Democratic base will erupt in frustration and animosity. Its tactics have already proved counterproductive, Nather writes:

Most of the groups in the anti-war coalition have appeared unwilling to work with Republican skeptics of the war on a plan they could all support. “They’re exercising their constitutional rights, and that’s fine, but by and large they aren’t doing anything to help us find a positive solution,” said Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been pushing for goals, rather than deadlines, for troop withdrawals based on the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana.

Some anti-war activists say they’re just not interested in dealing with the GOP and want to apply more pressure to the party now in control. “We’re looking at some of the Democrats who were voted in on a platform of fighting against the war, and we’re not really seeing that,” said LeiLani Dowell, a member of the Troops Out Now Coalition, which wants to end war funding and staged a rally at the Capitol last month that reportedly drew fewer than 1,000 people.

But in the view of lawmakers from both parties, the groups have also failed to connect with potential GOP allies because they have unrealistic expectations of how quickly the United States could withdraw from Iraq.

“I think they’re actually counterproductive. They don’t seem very thoughtful,” said Republican Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who opposed President Bush’s troop increase this year but wants any troop withdrawals to be based on benchmarks of progress in Iraq rather than a timetable. Democratic Rep. Zack Space, a freshman who will be up for re-election in a Republican-leaning part of Ohio next year, said of the antiwar groups, “By embracing a kind of impractical view of the situation, I think they hurt their cause.”

I think it’s really all about 2008 politics at this point.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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