The Washington Wars. (Comment)

Article excerpt

By the start of the third week of war, Bush was bogged down in Mesopotamia and Washington. The war did not open as well as had been predicted by prominent hawks, including Vice President Cheney. It appeared possible that George W. Bush's invasion could turn into a long-haul endeavor (good news for North Korea). Then again, a tipping point could be reached, and yesterday's morass could rapidly transform into military triumph, as happened in Afghanistan. The political implications of either scenario are impossible to predict. A quick win might be forgotten (cf. Bush I) or much appreciated by the voting public. A difficult but lengthy war might lead to political upheaval, or it could strengthen the bond between the President and portions of the public. In any event, the initial stall did not cost Bush much political capital, for in Washington there has been little politicking on the war.

Democrats haven't said much about its course. Few members of Congress have joined the debate over whether the initial Bush-Rumsfeld-Franks war plan was sufficient. Few have weighed in on important and contentious matters related to the coming occupation (presuming the war is won). Television bookers report that they have difficulty rounding up D guests. Antiwar Democratic presidential candidates--most notably former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Representative Dennis Kucinich--have decried the invasion. But many Democrats have taken up residence in Cheney's undisclosed location. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who supports the war, complained that the White House is stonewalling Congressional requests for information on the cost and duration of the war. And Democrats and Republicans have grumbled about Bush's attempt to spend $75 billion in emergency war funding--aka "the down payment"--as he sees fit. But these are mere skirmishes. "People are waiting to see what happens," says a Democratic senator. "I think the shit's going to hit the fan [with the war]. But it's too early to come out and say that."

Untroubled on the war by the Democrats, Bush has seen sand clog the gears of his programs closer to home. In recent weeks, with the help of moderate Republicans, Senate Democrats won votes halving Bush's new round of tax cuts to $350 billion and defeating his attempt to open a stretch of the Alaska wilderness to oil development. The Democrats sustained a filibuster against appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada. Bush's faith-based initiative has lost steam. His push for legislation limiting jury awards was derailed. Bush has also been drawn into a tussle with Congressional Democrats over how much money to spend on homeland security. Representative David Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, introduced a $12. …