An Extra Half Percentage Point at the Polls

The War Party: Democrats Lie to Prolong Iraq; Reporters Go Along
By Ted Rall, Sep 13 2007 – 10:02am

NEW YORK — Americans don’t know how their government works. Democrats, in control of Congress, are taking advantage of our ignorance to continue the Iraq War. Which brings up two questions: Why won’t the “antiwar” Democrats act to stop the carnage? And why aren’t reporters calling them on it?

“Democrats,” writes Charles Babington in an Associated Press item that appeared in hundreds of newspapers, “control both chambers [of Congress] but lack the numbers to override President Bush’s vetoes of bids to mandate troop withdrawals from Iraq.” It’s a half-truth at best: the Democrats’ narrow majority is less than the two-thirds majority they’d need to override a presidential veto. Here’s the full truth: it doesn’t matter.

In June Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Extra! Magazine wrote: “If the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted to force the Bush administration to accept a bill with a withdrawal timeline, it didn’t have to pass the bill over Bush’s veto–it just had to make clear that no Iraq War spending bill without a timeline would be forthcoming.”

Democratic leaders know that. And here’s how I know they know: days after taking control of Congress, on January 30, they invited five constitutional law experts to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask them how they could end the war. Four out of five of the experts swore that the Democrats could stop the Iraq War just…like…that.

“Today we’ve heard convincing testimony and analysis that Congress has the power to stop the war if it wants to,” said Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Yet eight months later, there’s still no end in sight.

The Dems won the 2006 elections with promises to end the war. Weeks after taking over Congress, however, Republicans spooked them with one of the most ludicrous talking points of all time. Cutting off the money, they said, would abandon U.S. soldiers at the front, their ammo dwindling as Al Qaeda insurgents swarmed over them. (Actually–the fact that I have to write this speaks to the American right’s intellectual dishonesty–the troops would go to the airport. They would board airplanes. They would fly home.)

Democrats worry that they’ll be portrayed as weak on defense if they act unilaterally to pull out of Iraq. Irony of ironies, they’re wussing out to avoid looking wimpy. Forcing Republicans to vote with them to end the war, they calculate, would give them political cover. Extra! continued: “Democrats may not have wanted to pay the supposed political costs of [cutting off funding], but news coverage should have made clear that this was a choice, not something forced on them by the lack of a veto-proof majority.”

Rather than set the record straight, the media continues to spread the Democrats-can’t-stop-the-Republican-war meme this week:

Michael Duffy, Time magazine: “If Democrats had more votes–particularly in the House–they might be able to force Bush to change course. But Bush will fight any resolution fencing him in with a veto that, as things stand now, the Democrats cannot override. But the President’s critics will continue to try, hoping to attract moderate Republicans who are fearful of losing their seats next year.” Occasionally Time invites me to its Christmas party. If I score an invite this year, my present for their fact-checkers will be a copy of the Constitution.

Marcella Bombardieri, The Boston Globe: “In the Senate, Democrats have only a 51 to 49 majority, far from the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster and the 67 needed to override a presidential veto. All efforts to force a troop withdrawal have failed, and the party will have to count on substantial Republican defections to make any further progress this fall.” I’ll be checking the Globe for a retraction.

Brian Knowlton, The New York Times: Knowlton dutifully quoted Democratic Senator Joe Biden’s claim that there were “political limits on his party, even with the Congressional majority it has held since the November midterm elections. ‘This is the president’s war,’ [Biden] said. ‘Unless we get 67 votes to override his veto, there’s nothing we can do to stop this war…'” Not only did the Times fail to call Biden on his brazen lie, it gave him the last word.

You’d think the Democrats would want to end the Iraq War before their likely retaking of the White House, but that’s because you’re a human being, not a politician. Politicians are happy to dispatch hundreds of young American men and women to certain death (along with thousands of Iraqis), if the bloodshed squeezes out an extra half percentage point at the polls. Reid and Pelosi prefer to run against a disastrous ongoing Republican war than point to a fragile Democratic-brokered peace.

Why are so many respected journalists parroting the Democratic party line? I suspect that corporate media culture, rather than Judith Miller-style malfeasance, is largely to blame. Ink-stained newsrooms have been replaced by bullpen offices indistinguishable from those of banks or insurance companies. Reporters used to come from the working classes. They distrusted politicians and businessmen, and politicians and businessmen loathed them. Today’s journalists are products of cookie-cutter journalism schools. Because graduate schools rarely offer scholarships, few come from the lower or middle classes. They look like businessmen. When they meet a politician, they see a possible friend. They wear suits and ties. And when a U.S. senator like Joe Biden feeds them a line of crap, they gobble it up.


About author Ted Rall is the author of the new book “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next big foreign policy challenge.


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