Clever Democrats

A response to Gary Younge in today’s Guardian.

There has been a lot of commentary about the effect of President Bush’s veto of the bill linking funding for the US armed forces to a timetable for withdrawal. The usually excellent Gary Younge misses a trick, though, on this one in today’s Guardian.

His argument is that the Democrats need to provide leadership on the war. I fear he is looking at the Democrats through rose-tinted spectacles. There is no leadership on the horizon here. At the moment, Hilary and Barack are winding up for a punch-up for the Democratic nomination. This is a fantastic tactic to put attention on the Republicans. Whether or not you think there should be a timetable, the ball is firmly in the GOP court. The Democrats have acted decisively. As Younge notes, the Dems always have a problem in appearing un-patriotic in not automatically approving of everything the military does; in their resolution, they have secured material provision for the military by granting more than was requested while securing – or giving the appearance of trying to secure – physical and moral security by setting a timetable for their withdrawal.

President GW Bush will now veto the Bill. There is almost no chance of the veto being overturned, as the Dems will not be able to secure the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers of Congress, but it will provide in-fighting and indecision in the Republican camp for now. It will also, critically, come back to haunt the Republicans when it comes to choosing their presidential candidate; if it comes down to two, one who went one way and one who went the other, there will be splits there. If there is a core GOP vote that likes the war, it may not be energised to come out if the candidates disagree with the President’s impending veto. It could exacerbate existing splits within the Republican Party. Most importantly, it gives a clear, understandable and easily-saleable line for the Democrats against a confused Republican line that looks too much like playing partisan politics.

I can’t help but feel that Bush has made a rod for his own back by not vetoing any bills before this other than one easing federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. It becomes much more of an issue and shows that there was a lockstep between the executive and legislative branches that cannot be seen as healthy. As an aside, one of the most successful presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was responsible for almost one quarter of all presidential vetoes ever – 635 out of 2,551. In fairness, some presidents had no vetoes whatsoever, but these are historical. Anyway, take a look as it makes (for historians of American politics) interesting reading.




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