The republic survived the first two crises.
In the first, which was a legacy of President Johnson bypassing Congress to take the
President Nixon himself defused the second by resigning rather than face impeachment for orchestrating an extralegal power grab that included a White House dirty tricks team, refusing to hand over evidence to Congress and, in twin echoes of current scandals, politicalization of the Justice Department and misuse of executive privilege.
Not unlike these crises, the focal point of the forthcoming one is an implacable president who seems to welcome a confrontation with a congressional majority that has the support of most Americans; in this case on finding a way to end the Iraq war sooner rather than later.The stage has been set for this crisis because the Democrats in both House and Senate have managed to overcome ideological infighting and forge a consensus.
The engine for the Democratic initiative is the mandate the party was given in the mid-term election and the fuel the House vote last week imposing a deadline in a supplemental funding bill for the withdrawal of American troops by August 2008, if not earlier if certain benchmarks are not met. Senate Democrats yesterday beat back an effort by Republicans to remove a March 2008 deadline from their version of the bill and will now have to work in conference with their House counterparts to try to iron out differences in the two bills and draft compromise legislation that can clear both chambers and be sent to the White House.
The president’s apologists will bewail the fact that this showdown looms at precisely the time when there at last seems to be some progress in Iraq.
My short response is: Tough shit. My longer response is: Too little too late, and most Americans agree with me. Their patience is finite and they are sick and tired of being repeatedly diddled by talk that there is light at the end of the tunnel.It is, of course, George Bush himself who is making matters worse because of his numbingly strident rhetoric against anyone opposed to a four year-plus war and occupation that should not have happened in the first place and was wretchedly executed when it did.
I can only presume that the republic will survive this crisis, as well. The keys to how protracted it will be, as well as how (or whether) it is resolved are:
* Whether Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be able to keep Democrats in line.
* What Republicans who have long marched to the White House beat will do.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that his caucus is weary of playing procedural paddy cake with filibuster threats and cloture battles. The Republicans are not about to cave in to the Democrats, but apparently will leave it to the president to make good on his veto threat when a bill curbing his war powers by legislating funding limits does reach the Oval Office.
Then there is the question of how many Republicans from the party’s re-emergent moderate bloc conclude that listening to their war-weary constituents is smarter than listening to a president who is setting up the party for another electoral defeat in 2008.
It is difficult to image this Senate ever sending a bill to this president with a veto-proof majority.
But the war in Iraq has taken so many unexpected twists and turns and George Bush is so wounded that it would be foolhardy to rule out a resolution to this constitutional crisis that hastens the end of the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history.
Photograph by Chris Hondros/Getty Images