Friday, May 25, 2007

Congress Blinks, Media Winks

If you have an interest in the how-to’s of journalistic advocacy posing as news writing, there's a good example in today’s Detroit News about the Congress’s passage of the Iraq spending bill with the withdrawal timelines completely removed.

As an irreducible political fact, Congress and the President squared off on this issue, and the President got what he wanted. In other words, he clearly won.

(Or, as Jimmy Carter might phrase it, the worst President in history once again bests outfoxed the smarter and morally superior Congress.)

(Or, as the elitist press would phrase it, the stupidest moron to ever occupy the Oval Office once again gets the majority smarter party to go along with what he wants.)

Clearly the President's victory, even if you don't agree with it, is the real newsworthy nugget. And had a liberal President prevailed over a stubborn Republican majority in a similar standoff, is there any doubt the headlines would all have been some variation of “Congress Blinks”?

Instead, the media is presenting Bush’s victory, and the defeat of the Pelosi and Reid “new direction” on Iraq, as a neutral event:

“Congress voted Thursday to meet President Bush's demand for about $95 billion to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, providing a momentary truce in a bitter struggle over war policy.”

A momentary truce? Does that mean that the two sides are going to go back to fighting about this bill after the President has signed it?

And according to the headlines in the Detroit News, the Democrats did not lose: “Congress approves $95B for Iraq war: Dems back off, take out troop pullout timetable after earlier Bush veto."

So the Dems didn’t lose, they just “backed off.” There are no losers here, especially the Democrats; nor is there a winner, especially the illiterate Moron in Chief.

And the New York Times, from which the identical Detroit News report was taken, has this interesting headline: “Congress Passes War Funds Bill, Ending Impasse.”

So you see, it isn’t that Bush stuck to his guns, or did exactly what he said he would do, and wrested a proper bill from Congress, and handed the Democratic caucus a major loss in return. Nor did the Democratic majority back down after one of the most overheated rhetorical grandstanding ever. Rather, Congress ended an “impasse,” not only avoiding being the loser, but getting credit for initiative and doing something actually rather positive.

A similar headline may have been written in April 1865, "Army of Norther Virginia Surrenders to Federal Troops at Appamatox Courthouse, Ending Impasse."

Never mind that if Congress had passed the same goddamned bill in January when the President first asked for it, and before creating the impasse that the Times is now crediting them with ending, the troops would have had the money by now.

As if we didn’t know the difference.

By way of reminder of just how much Pelosi and Reid anted up in their losing hand against the President, here is a brief remider, from her own website, of how Pelosi’s fans were raving her up in March for her brave position on imeidate withdrawals,

Pelosi war-bill gamble pays off; The House speaker's triumph was anything but assured when she announced the measure -- without votes

By Noam Levey

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced an angry group of liberal lawmakers when she stepped into her red-walled Capitol office on the afternoon of March 8.

That morning, the San Francisco Democrat had announced plans to push legislation requiring President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008 -- at the latest.
But the antiwar members of her party who gathered in the large conference room overlooking the National Mall wanted the war over sooner. Many were threatening to defy their leader and vote against the bill.

For 2 1/2 hours Pelosi listened, parrying each complaint with an argument she would make hundreds of times over the next two weeks: Democrats had to unite behind a bill that challenged Bush's management of the war.

Friday, Pelosi carried the day.

In the most difficult trial of her speakership, Pelosi pushed through the first legislation mandating an end to U.S. involvement in the Iraq war.

The 218-212 vote vindicated the risk she took in championing the controversial withdrawal plan before she had the votes.

And it rewarded the round-the-clock cajoling, lobbying and pleading by Pelosi and her top lieutenants, who worked until just before the vote to keep Democrats united behind the bill. In the end, only 14 Democrats voted against it.

"She was the general here, and there wasn't a stone left unturned, a person left uncontacted or a member whose position was left unknown," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of the chamber's staunchest war opponents, whose decision to back the bill helped put it over the edge. "It was a brilliant campaign."

Pelosi, who closed the debate for the Democrats on Friday, afterward called the vote the beginning of a "new direction."

"This new Congress voted to bring an end to the war in Iraq," she said.

Less than a month ago, it was far from clear that the new speaker could get her party there. Democrats united behind a nonbinding resolution criticizing Bush's plan to deploy additional troops to Iraq, but they appeared to be splintering over what to do next when they took up an emergency spending bill to pay for the war.

Moderates, worried about meddling in military affairs, rebelled over a plan to require troops to meet a set of readiness standards before they could be sent to Iraq.

And lawmakers in the Out of Iraq Caucus, which has more than 80 members, demanded that the spending bill include a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces -- an idea that party leaders had largely dismissed when they took power.

But after days of huddling with party leaders, Pelosi decided to embrace a timeline. On the morning of March 8, she strode into the ceremonial speaker's office to announce that Democrats would force the president to begin withdrawing U.S. troops no later than next year.

Pelosi acknowledged she didn't have votes to pass the measure. In fact, the bill was still in the drafting stage. But the speaker left no doubt about the stakes. "We have to pass it," she told dozens of journalists packed into the office….

Later, Pelosi’s website quoted these editorials with approval in response to Bush’s veto of the withdrawal bill:

Rocky Mountain News: Bush’s Farwell (sic) Tantrum
By Paul Campos
May 1, 2007

“Whatever one thought of the original decision to invade Iraq, the political question the nation now faces could not be clearer: Should we ask our troops to continue to fight this war, and our children to pay for it through future tax increases…

“The American people have already answered that question, and their answer is ‘No.’… Every opinion poll shows that, by large majorities, Americans support the efforts of Democrats to force President Bush to begin withdrawing our troops…

“In the end, President Bush's failure to heed the will of the people isn't so much an act of principle, but rather an outburst of sheer peevishness. With Democrats in control of Congress, he's no longer getting a blank check to fund his military adventures.”

The Miami Herald: Congress Declares Vote of No Confidence
May 1, 2007

“By sending President Bush an Iraq spending bill with a timetable for withdrawal, Congress has declared itself unequivocally against the war even though the nation's troops are still on the battlefield. This is an unmistakable, and we believe deserved, vote of no confidence in the way the administration has managed the war…

“Congress is responding to the popular will and, more important, fulfilling a constitutional duty.”

And there was there was Harry Reid’s speech on April 23rd, in which he said,

“Now in the fifth year of President Bush's mismanagement and mistakes, there is no magic formula. But, there is a way forward that gives us our best chance for a responsible end to the war - that protects our strategic interests, strengthens our security, and brings our troops home.

“That way forward is being forged today in Congress, with the help and advice of Democrats and Republicans, civilian experts and retired generals, as well as the good judgment of the American people, who have made their voices heard loud and clear.

“Today, I speak of where things stand on the ground in Iraq and in the public discourse at home. I also speak of why an Iraq strategy that a bipartisan majority in Congress supports is our best way forward.”

If the Miami Herald is correct that the original bill requiring withdrawal timelines was Congress's way of “Responding to the popular will and, more important, fulfilling a constitutional duty.” then yesterday Congress either ignored the popular will, failed in their Constitutional duty, or just revealed itself as the posturing, political windbags that they are.

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