Round 6 - The MetaphorWe start with Denethor, last Steward (lame duck) of Gondor, pretender to the throne, living in the White Castle, going mad after communicating with the dark side, and bringing his nation to the brink of ruin with an incompetent war strategy. I don't want to get too hung up on who are the partisan "good guys" and 'bad guys" with this metaphor. After all, men fought on both sides of the battle of Minas Tirith, some aligned with Orcs and Wraithes, some aligned with Dwarves and Wizards, just like you have Republicans and Democrats on both sides of this Executive vs. Legislative battle. Of course there were those "oliphaunts" on the Field of Pelannor which are metaphorically impossible to ignore, as well as a future king leading an army of the undead, who are paying penance for their treachery during a lost war fought decades before. Are you still with me? Keep in mind that this is a metaphor, not an analogy. There is no requirement for the Battle in the House of Representatives to exactly follow the plot line of the Lord of Rings. For example, unlike Tolkien's version, Nancy "Galadriel" Pelosi decided to go ahead and wear The Ring of Power in this version. Of course, she promised to do only good with the power, but despite being well beyond her self-imposed 100 hour initiative time limit, she has yet to take "the precious" off her finger. Ok, I have taken this far enough. A full Tolkien-esque acccounting of the Battle in the Field of the House of Representatives is left as an exercise for the reader.
Round 6 - The DebateMuch has been written about the battle in the MSM and the blogosphere, and we will not re-hash all that here. DWSUWF will be content to simply highlight a few speeches that caught our attention, and make a couple of observations.
The two most thoughtful, non-partisan, and intellectually honest speeches in the House debate were by Republicans, one voting for the resolution and one voting against. Both are presented here.
Ron Paul R-TX and Jeff Flake R-AZ
Coincidently, Ron and Jeff are also the two most libertarian members in the House of Representatives. Perhaps not coincidently, Ron Paul is running for President, and my second choice behind Chuck Hagel
The membership is fond of calling the House of Representatives the People's House. This vote on the resolution critical of the escalation in Iraq is an accurate reflection of the concerns of the American electorate. A vote on this resolution would never have taken place in the previous Congress, but if it had, it would not have passed in the previous Congress. Here is one example of what has changed in Congress and why.
Jason Altmire is a freshman representative elected from Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District. He was a political unknown who won against three term incumbent Republican Melissa Hart, a "rising star" in the Republican party who was considered to have a "safe" congressional seat in a "safe" Republican District. She outspent Jason Altmire 2 to 1 in the campaign. This was Melissa Hart's view on the Iraq war:
Compare and contrast with the perspecive of the congressman that now represents Pennsylvania's 4th District.
"Melissa Hart is the good soldier who doesn't depart from President Bush's marching orders. She is glad that the administration is talking about a change in tactics, but gives no hint that Iraq was a mistake or a miscalculation. The job must be finished, she says, or else calamity will ensue."
Jason Altmire D-PA
Republicans have yet to pay attention to what really happened in 2006. Melissa Hart was a smart, competent and well liked Representative from a safe district. She lost. She confused being an apologist for George Bush's failed Iraq policies with being a Republican conservative. Representatives are exactly that - a representative proxy for the people in their district. Jason Altmire represents the Pennsylvania 4th district better than Melissa Hart. Too many Republicans continue to make the same mistake as Hart. They risk turning the Republican party into an ineffectual political force for a generation. We cannot have a divided government, if the major parties are not roughly balanced, and they cannot be balanced if the Republican party fails to acknowledge reality. We conclude these observations with one more Republican member of the House, whose arguments we found less than compelling. I am not sure if he accurately represents his district, but if he does, this is a part of the country I plan to avoid.
Smeagol Gollum, R-VA
Round 7 - Senate Cloture yet again.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped the failed Warner/Levin attempt at a bi-partisan resolution in favor of a Saturday vote on the House resolution. The partisan dynamic and the speeches on the floor were a replay of the cloture vote last week. In this vote the "gang of seven" Republicans voted with the Democrats supporting cloture, creating a majority of 56-34 in support. The measure still fell short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to avaid a fillibuster and pass the resolution. Sigh - forget the LOTR metaphor. Lets try poker.
Despite anyone's high-minded rhetoric, the debate over the escalation in Iraq cannot be seperated from politics and it is naive to think differently. Democrats outmaneuvered the Republicans on public perception of the debate in the Senate, and are holding a better political poker hand. There was no reason for Harry Reid to fold that hand. Either party could have yielded political posturing to get the debate and the vote. Republicans could have agreed to a vote on the bipartisan Warner/Levin resolution. They could have agreed to vote on the Resolution passed by the House. They continue to bluff with a losing hand. The Democrats could have agreed to an additional vote on the Gregg amendment. But the Democrats are winning the P.R. battle, so there is no reason to do so. Republicans were and are painted as obstructing an embarassing vote for the President. Call. The cards are on the table. The fact remains there was no vote and no real debate, but the Republicans took the blame. We'll call round seven a draw in the executive/legislative battle.
Through 7 Rounds: Congress - 3, President - 2, Draw - 2.