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March 29, 2007

Politics And The Iraq War Funding Debate

by Doug Mataconis

Kevin and I have been having a discussion in the comment thread to my earlier post about the Senate’s passage of an Iraq War funding bill that contains a timetable for withdrawal. The basic question is whether the Bush Administration or the Democratic Congress has the most to lose in what looks like it will be a showdown over funding the war.

Apropos of that disucssion, I though these poll results were interesting:

1. A solid majority of Americans want Congress to fully fund the war in Iraq.

When asked if they favor or oppose Congress fully funding the war in Iraq, 56% favor fully funding the war in Iraq, while just 38% oppose. In fact, more voters STRONGLY favor (40%) Congress fully funding the war in Iraq than out-right oppose it (38%).

Support for funding our troops is consistent across the board:

  • Republicans are unified with 87% support. A majority (55%) of Independents support fully funding the war in Iraq. Despite the party line vote in Congress, more than one in four Democrats support funding for our military in Iraq.
  • Across the country, majorities of Americans support funding our troops – including 51% in the Northeast, 56% in the Midwest, 58% in the South, and 59% in the West.

and…..

3. Voters point the finger of blame squarely in the Democrats’ direction for not fundingthe troops.

We read voters the following statements and asked them to pick which statement they agreed with the most.

President Bush has declared that he will veto the bill because it sets a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq and includes billions of dollars in non-emergency spending. By vetoing this bill, a spending bill for the troops will not be passed.

In thinking about this, which position do you agree with most? (ROTATE STATEMENTS)

  • 40% (SOME/OTHER) people say that if President Bush vetoes the Democratic spending bill then Bush should be blamed for not funding the troops because his veto will mean that there is no spending package available for the troops.

…OR…

  • 50% (OTHER/SOME) people say that if President Bush vetoes the Democratic spending bill then the Democrats in Congress are to be blamed for not funding the troops because they attached restrictions on the President and military commanders in Iraq along with billions of dollars in pork barrel spending to a bill intended to help the troops.

If this poll is to be believed, then the public at this point is on the side of the Administration, or at least opposed to the idea of defunding the war, and that they would blame the Democrats in Congress if a clean Iraq War spending bill did not pass by the April 15th deadline.

Given, this I think my earlier conclusion that the Democrats are taking big political risk here is well-supported.

H/T: James Joyner

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12 Comments

  1. Mr. Bush is a liar and a killer. As per the America standing for freedom
    Mr. bush has proven he has little concern he has of us laws, the constitution, the basic ideals of freedom and everything that America was suppose to stand for. Not to mention international laws, the Geneva contention, etc. etc. Mr. Bush is without a bout the great threat we have seen since Adolph Hitler.

    Comment by mike thomas — March 29, 2007 @ 5:30 pm
  2. Bullshit, Mr. Bush is a liar and a killer. As per the America standing for freedom
    Mr. bush has proven he has little concern he has of us laws, the constitution, the basic ideals of freedom and everything that America was suppose to stand for. Not to mention international laws, the Geneva contention, etc. etc. Mr. Bush is without the great threat we have seen since Adolph Hitler.

    Comment by mike thomas — March 29, 2007 @ 5:30 pm
  3. Huh.. I looked at your link briefly and saw it was from PBS and thought “well they’re pretty non-partisan”. Then I clicked through and realized your link is to a Republican press release talking about a poll commissioned by the RNC, not exactly an unbiased source of information.

    I took a little trip to the Pew Research Center, which is non-partisan and does a lot of polling. They actually ask the question you seem to be asking “What does the public want Congress to do?”. Here’s what they have:

    Views of of a bill calling for an Iraq troop pullout by August 2008:
    – Want representative to vote for: 59%
    – Want representative to vote against: 33%
    – Don’t Know: 8%

    In any case, the bills that just passed in the House and Senate both fully fund (and more) the effort, and actually give the president more money than he requested. I don’t see why funding is part of your question? Has anyone said that either of the bills don’t provide the requested funding?

    Comment by nino — March 29, 2007 @ 5:41 pm
  4. Here’s a link to the non-partisan Pew poll I just referenced. It has a lot of great information, unlike the press release cited above:

    Solid Majority Favors Congressional Troop Deadline – 33% think surge will work (March 26, 2007)
    http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=313

    Take a look at the data, make up your own mind.

    Comment by nino — March 29, 2007 @ 5:44 pm
  5. Doug,

    I have to call bullshit on your cited poll. It’s a RNC commissioned push poll.

    Having said though, I’ll be curious to see where the polls are once this showdown really begins in earnest.

    Comment by Kevin — March 29, 2007 @ 9:56 pm
  6. Kevin,

    Does the fact that it’s an RNC commissioned poll really cast doubt on it’s authenticity ?

    Frankly. I don’t know.

    I spent several semesters in college studying polling and there are times i think the entire thing is bullshit.

    But, there’s a part of me that really thinks that the American public isn’t going to like the idea of cutting of funding in the middle of a war, even if it’s a war they don’t entirely support.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — March 29, 2007 @ 10:13 pm
  7. Nino,
    The issue here is not that there won’t be enough money for war funding. The issue is that the bill restricts the President and the troop commanders in Iraq by requiring an accelerated timetable forcing commanders to hit their milestones more rapidly. This makes for sloppy work and is inherently more dangerous for the troops. Being a military member myself who is looking at deploying in the near future, this worries me a great deal as it shows no support for the troops at all. I see it as a disregard for the troops and a power play by the Democrats designed SOLELY at boosting popularity numbers in preparation for the upcoming Presidential election. That being said, let me remind anyone who cares, doing the right thing is not always the popular thing. My question regarding this matter is this, If the war had the intended results, i.e. removing the dictator Hussein from power and helping the Iraqi people rebuild their own Government AND had these goals happened in a timely manner and we were home already, would not the same Democrats that are condemning the President now be applauding themselves for the initially supporting the war?

    Another issue that bothers me is this pork barrel spending. The war funding bill should be about funding the war or not. Period. This should be the only topic that is addressed in this bill, not sugar beets, peanut storage and political conventions. There are other forums for those most noble causes and should be addressed in those forums, not shoved down the throats of the American People and left for the future generations of Americans to pay for without being addressed in the open and not crammed in the back of more attention getting bills.

    These things being said, regardless of the origin of the poll, it would be the Democrats fault for posing a bill they know, because they had been told, will be vetoed if they send it up. What needs to happen is both parties need to work together for a change, and I don’t mean just enough to say they worked together. I mean everybody get in a room and decide what the best course is for the country, NOT argue about which side is right and wrong. Neither side is “right” and neither side is “wrong”. To be honest neither side has a good plan, in my opinion. Only by taking the best and least biased ideas from each side, will we figure out what is best for the situation in Iraq and for the country.

    This was much longer than I intended for it to be, I am going to also post this on my own blog.

    Comment by HotGarbage — March 30, 2007 @ 12:00 am
  8. HotGarbage,

    Thanks for the post. I’ll go point-by-point

    > The issue here is not that there won’t be enough money for war funding. The issue is that the bill restricts the President and the troop commanders in Iraq by requiring an accelerated timetable forcing commanders to hit their milestones more rapidly.

    Exactly! That’s exactly my point. The bills both fund the ongoing conflict fully, but look at the initial post which says nothing about the timetable issue but misdirects us into talking about funding as if the bills didn’t fully fund the effort.

    > I see it as a disregard for the troops

    I get so sick and tired of hearing this. Any criticism of how the war is being run by the administration is posed as being disrespectful of the troops. I refuse to accept this rationale. If the bills are disrespectful to the troops and seemingly everything else the Dems do is disrespectful also then how does one legitimately go about the process of dissent without being accused of disrespecting the troops?? I support the troops. I’m sure most everyone on any side of the question supports the troops. What I don’t support is how we’ve run this war, and I don’t support using “the troops” as a way to stifle real dissent.

    > If the war had the intended results, i.e. removing the dictator Hussein from power and helping the Iraqi people rebuild their own Government AND had these goals happened in a timely manner and we were home already, would not the same Democrats that are condemning the President now be applauding themselves for the initially supporting the war?

    Hmm, they’d have to applaud the President at least. A lot of Democrats foolishly supported the war thinking if they didn’t they’d be branded unpatriotic (which happened a lot back then). That was a mistake. Unfortunately, things have gone as badly as they possibly could. I don’t see any real way out of our administrations blunders at this point, so we’ll never know what the Dems would have done.

    > These things being said, regardless of the origin of the poll, it would be the Democrats fault for posing a bill they know, because they had been told, will be vetoed if they send it up.

    I disagree, most non-partisan polls show the majority of the citizens of this country want us out of Iraq and want timetables for our troops to come home. The Dems proposed a reasonable (by their and apparently the public’s standards) set of bills. To then say that they are at fault for Bush vetoing a bill that fully funds the war seems counterintuitive. What is the other option for Congress. Do nothing? Fully defund the war? Doing nothing isn’t an option and defunding the war would get vetoed too, not to mention being stupid politically. So, in your mind they have to give a bill to the President with no timetables, no deadlines, no restraints at all?

    > Neither side is “right” and neither side is “wrong”. To be honest neither side has a good plan, in my opinion.

    Of course there’s no good plan…. The administration’s mismanagement of the war has insured that there are no good options. The war is essentially lost at this point. In the real world there aren’t great plans that will turn around everything and make it good again when things have been this badly bungled. At this point we need to find the least distastful of all the bad options that are now the only options available.

    Thanks for the good discussion by the way.

    Comment by nino — March 30, 2007 @ 12:50 am
  9. Looking at what’s happening now it seems clear that the Administration has finally come to realize that the chance for a good outcome is very, very slim. They are still hoping for a miracle but that’s unlikely, I think most will agree.

    The Administration’s goal at this point is to make it look like they’re still trying to win but their real goal is to keep the status quo held together for just a bit longer, so they can hand the whole mess off to the next administration.

    That’s why they are fighting any timetables or benchmarks. Restrictions like that might force them to clean up this mess (as best they can) on their own watch. They’re not going to do that. If a Republican administration takes office that’s tough, but if a Dem administration takes office then the messy conclusion would perforce be on their watch, with Republican pols feverishly trying to pin all the problems squarely on the Dems and the media.

    Comment by nino — March 30, 2007 @ 1:05 am
  10. Nino,

    While I disagree with you on this issue, you seem to fairly level headed (a rarity on both sides of this discussion). I have one question for you: Fundamentally, shouldn’t troop withdrawal and all the circumstances that surround it (numbers, phases, timetables) be a purely MILITARY decision, and not a POLITICAL one?

    Comment by Bret — March 30, 2007 @ 1:48 am
  11. Thanks Bret,

    That’s a really interesting question. To answer, I’d like to adjust your terminology a bit. I’d say the areas of responsibility include MILITARY and CIVILIAN (which includes politics. That given, let’s take a look at the textobook answer:

    1. The President as Commander in Chief is the leader of the military. He gives them their ultimate orders.

    2. It’s Congresses responsibility via the Constitution and the War Powers act to approve wars and determine funding.

    3. Based on the civilian command, it’s the DoD (also under civilian leadership) and the military branches to determine how to accomplish the goals given by civilian leadership.

    So, this is definitely not a purely military matter, these timetables and dates. I’d agree that a LBJ-like civilian choosing of specific military targets is a bad idea. At that level the military should be in control, but it’s the civilian leadership’s responsibility to determine long-term goals and provide a framework. Creating benchmarks and deadlines at the civilian level is nothing new in our system. In fact, I would think that the Iraq War is likely notable for the lack of such civilian imposed controls. Let’s look at some hypotheticals:

    1. Let’s say America’s civilian leadership decided we need to win at all costs. That being the case the civilian leadership could institute a draft, create price and commodity controls, put the country on a total war footing and send hundreds of thousands more troops to the ME. This would be a civilian decision and we’d task the DoD and the military with figuring out how to do all that. It’s not going to happen.

    2. Similarly, the civilian leadership could say “We’ve definitely lost, let’s pull out now”. Again, this is a civilian decision to make, not the military’s. We’d tell the DoD and military to roll out and bring the troops home ASAP.

    Both of these are radical steps, but no one would say they are not properly the province of the civilian leadership. These decisions should be made at the civilian level based on a myriad of factors (cost/benefit, likelyhood of reaching the goal, political reality, public support, international relations, etc.). These are decisions that need to be made at the civilian level.

    Given that, how would a decision to say “Let’s wrap things up as best we can before August 2008″ also not be a civilian decision? I think most of the country sees that we’re not winning. The chance of winning is small. We’re now in the middle of a civil war we can’t control. The chance of democracy is vanishingly slim, and the cost in lives, money, and our good reputation is huge. These are civilian considerations, not military ones. To give the military a goal and a timeframe for achieving that goal, especially as broad as this goal is is definitely a civilian decision.

    In fact, I think The President’s constant assertions over the years that “The decisions are the commanders to make” and “We’ve given them everything they ask for in troops and materials” is actually cowardly. The truth is that the civilian leadership has always been closely involved with each aspect of the war effort and to go in front of the people and basically lie and say that the civilian leadership is just doing what the commanders ask for is a total cop-out and an improper shifting of responsibility.

    Comment by nino — March 30, 2007 @ 3:54 am
  12. You people can argue about it till the cows come home. This bill is not about funding the war at all. This bill is a politically motivated, crafty way the Democrats have come up with to try and put the onus of defunding the war on the President.

    1) [It ties political position to a funding bill]. If the Democrats are so certain about their alleged mandate to bring the troops home NOW .. then they should DEFUND the war NOW. As opposed to passing this politically motivated piece of crap, they should have said, NO .. we won’t fund the war, we will pass a bill to fund bringing the troops home by … let’s say August of 2007 beginning immediately!

    2) [Notice the Dates of the withdrawl]. March – Sept. 08. Right at the beginning and in the middle of the 08 campaign season. This was not by accident. This was purposeful. They KNOW that withdrawing the troops equals defeat …a defeat they can lay at the Republicans feet, and use POLITICALLY! (The kings and queens of LIES never stop thinking of creative way to deceive the public to gain power to push forward their socialist agenda).

    If it weren’t so blatant, it might would pass .. but it is, and as such, it doesn’t. The Democrats won the last election not on their ideas, but purely on the disdain for Bush. I say, grow some and put your real ideas forward. If you want to bring the troops home, then vote to do so by NOT FUNDING THE WAR at ALL! (then watch that alleged mandate fall apart)

    Comment by Deanster — April 4, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

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