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Talking Points: This is Not 1995
Fri Apr 13, 2007 02:00

Talking Points: This is Not 1995

April 12, 2007

The debate in Washington over Iraq has narrowed to a basic choice: whether to endorse a blank check for President Bush to continue his war in Iraq, as conservatives are demanding, or to begin the safe and responsible redeployment of U.S. forces, as Congress has endorsed. On the defensive, President Bush has adopted a strategy "patterned after Bill Clinton's 1995-96 showdown with the then-Republican Congress: shift blame to lawmakers for failing to fund the troops." His arguments justifying a veto are easily debunked. But the power of the president's bully-pulpit have some in the media suggesting that Bush will end up victorious, as Clinton was. But President Bush cannot recreate the outcome of 1995-96 because he is missing the crucial ingredient that ensured Clinton's success -- the support of the American people.

* President Bush has far lower approval ratings than President Clinton did in 1995. Prior to the first government shutdown, which began on November 14, 1995, Clinton's job approval ratings were "significantly higher than Bush's are now." Meanwhile, President Bush's approval ratings are lodged in a ditch. According to Gallup polling, Bush's poll numbers have been mired in the 30s for seven consecutive months. "Since the advent of modern polling, only two presidents have suffered longer strings of such low ratings. One was Harry Truman, whose popularity sank during the final 26 months of his tenure as the Korean War stalemated. The other was Richard Nixon during the 13 months leading up to his resignation amid the Watergate scandal."

* President Bush does not have the support of the American people for his Iraq strategy. In 1995-96, "polls also showed stronger support for Clinton's position on the budget problem that led to the shutdown than for the position held by the then-Republican-led Congress," as Media Matters documented. Days before the first government shutdown, The New York Times reported "a continuing erosion of public support" for the conservative budget program, with Americans opposed 45 percent to 35 percent. A USA Today/CNN poll released on November 10, 1995 "suggested Americans by wide margins [had] soured on the Republican agenda, with 60 percent saying [Clinton] should veto the budget bill and 33 percent saying he should sign it." In contrast, a CNN poll last month found that 58 percent of Americans “want to see U.S. troops leave Iraq either immediately or within a year,” with a majority saying they “would rather have Congress running U.S. policy in the conflict than President Bush."

* The president is increasingly isolated in his views on Iraq. President Bush's credibilty with the American people has evaporated. Iraq critics in Congress are broadly united on setting on a timeline for withdrawal, while conservatives face immense pressure to distance themselves from the president's disastrous war policy. And they are already beginning to crack. The Politico reported this week that a "diverse collection of House Republicans has formed an ad hoc group to negotiate with the White House on a compromise Iraq spending bill." Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) said he and others in the group "will encourage the White House to compromise on negotiations with Syria and Iran and on setting a date for withdrawal from Iraq." This is the key for President Bush: compromise. For the sake of our national security, it is time for him to accept the multiple invitations of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to sit down and compromise on a bill that fully funds our troops and finally brings them home.

Think Fast

White House officials privately concede that much of the added domestic funding projects in the Iraq supplemental is necessary, contrary to President Bush's claim that they are "pork barrel projects." "We agree that the funding is needed," one official said, specifically citing added funds for homeland security and to help Gulf Coast states still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

"Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem."

"A librarian who fended off an FBI demand for computer records on patrons said Wednesday that secret anti-terrorism investigations strip away personal freedoms." George Christian said his experience "should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution" about the strain that the Bush administration has put on civil liberties.

The war in Iraq has "spawned new terror in the region," the Oxford Research Group, a British think tank, states in a new report. The United States and Britain have tried to "keep the lid on" terrorism problems with military force but "failed to address the root causes." The report also states that Iran, Syria, and North Korea have become "emboldened."

"Al Qaeda's new affiliate in North Africa asserted responsibility Wednesday for the deadliest attacks in Algeria's capital in a decade as 24 people were reported killed and 222 injured in bombings that shattered the prime minister's headquarters and a police base."

Conservative state legislators killed an effort yesterday to hang Coretta Scott King's portrait in Georgia's Capitol, next to a photo of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Mrs. King certainly is a wonderful humanitarian...but this is not a museum," said State Rep. Calvin Hill (R).

"Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections." Just 120 people have been charged with voter fraud crimes, and 86 convicted as of last year.

And finally: Freshmen Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) "are locked in a tight race over who will be class geek." They are competing to win the Golden Gavel Award, which "goes to any senator who has presided over the Senate for 100 hours in any given year." At this point, Klobuchar is winning by a mere 20 minutes.

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