A Dangerous Game

My column in today's Herald focused on the new strategy the Democrats in the Senate have adopted to bring an end to the war.

Rather than actually voting to defund or simply to not fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Senate Dems have decided that they just won't vote on the supplemental spending bill at all. This is a very risky move for anti-war members of Congress to make and it may very well backfire on them. There have been a few members of the Democrat's fringe base - such as our own Russ Feingold - who have talked about defunding the war for quite some time, but it has always been the position of the Dems' leadership that they will support the troops, just not the President's policies.

If they actually go through with this threat to allow the funding for the war to lapse, they will have abandoned the very troops they have claimed to support. The Congress alone holds the power of the purse and only they can provide funding. President Bush really can't do anything to force the Democrats to provide funding other than to appeal to public opinion - which isn't exactly his strong suit. So the question then becomes, who will get blamed if funding is cut off, the President or the Democrats?

The answer is very simple: the Democrats will pay a heavy political price for this if they allow funding for the war to stop. It is one thing to impose a timetable or a deadline for withdrawal, but it is quite another to just let funding stop. No matter how unpopular the decision to go to war is or how unpopular President Bush is, the American people support the troops and support the idea of giving them what is necessary to keep them safe while in harm's way.

The problem with this type of a bluff is that if the Democrats ultimately fold and provide the funding they will look weak and ineffective, but if they go through with it they will look reckless and callous toward our fighting men and women.