Kerry complicates things for Dems
In 2004 they wanted him to be ‘firmer’ on Iraq, and now that he is, they’re not happy:
WASHINGTON, June 20 — When Senator John Kerry was their presidential nominee in 2004, Democrats fervently wished he would express himself firmly about the Iraq war.
Mr. Kerry has found his resolve. But it has not made his fellow Democrats any happier. They fear the latest evolution of Mr. Kerry’s views on Iraq may now complicate their hopes of taking back a majority in Congress in 2006.
As the Senate prepared for what promises to be a sharp debate starting on Wednesday about whether to begin pulling troops from Iraq, the Democratic leadership wants its members to rally behind a proposal that calls for some troops to move out by the end of this year but does not set a fixed date for complete withdrawal. Mr. Kerry has insisted on setting a date, for American combat troops to pull out in 12 months, saying anything less is too cautious.
In drawing up a schedule for the Wednesday session, the Democratic leadership has arranged for its plan to be debated first, pushing Mr. Kerry and his proposal into the evening, too late for the nightly television news, to starve it of some attention.
Senate Democrats have been loath to express their opinions publicly, determined to emphasize a united front. But interviews suggest a frustration with Mr. Kerry, never popular among the caucus, and still unpopular among many Democrats for failing to defeat a president they considered vulnerable. Privately, some of his Democratic peers complain that he is too focused on the next presidential campaign.
Mr. Kerry now describes the war in Iraq as a mistake, even though he once supported it. His critics say they believe the new stand reflects more politics than principle, and ignores other Democrats’ concern that setting a fixed date will leave those in tough re-election fights open to Republican taunts that they are “cutting and running” in Iraq.
The Democrats’ exasperation has increased in the last week, as they postponed a vote on Mr. Kerry’s amendment to try to fashion a broader consensus among themselves. Democrats up for re-election asked him not to propose a fixed date. But Mr. Kerry, several Democrats said, was unwilling to budge from that idea, even though his co-sponsor, Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, seemed willing to compromise for the sake of consensus. In the end, Mr. Kerry agreed only to extend his deadline, from Dec. 31 of this year to July 2007.
Mr. Kerry’s insistence on pushing ahead with his own plan has left the Democrats divided, and open to renewed Republican accusations that they are indecisive and weak — the same ridicule that Republicans heaped on Mr. Kerry in 2004, when his “I was for it before I was against it” statement about a vote on money for the war became a punch line.
I wrote last week in response to Kerry’s call for a ‘firm date’ on Iraq while calling the war “a mistake,” that it was a very good thing that Kerry, with that type of attitude, didn’t get elected as CIC. As far as Congressional Democrats go, it sounds like some of them are wishing he weren’t a Senator.