Democrats Deny They Backed Down on Iraq

The Washington Post made a big splash today with a story linked by almost everyone that said congressional Democrats had backed down on Iraq withdrawal timetable after their failure to override President Bush's veto which struck it down.

In a possible continuance of the congressional Dems' jostling with the Washington Post after their complaints against Post columnist David Broder, Democratic leaders are denying that they have caved to liberal blogger Joshua Marshall:

[T]he offices of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are denying a Washington Post story today saying that Congressional Democrats have backed down to the White House by offering to remove Iraq withdrawal language from the now-vetoed Iraq bill.

Pelosi just went before the Democratic caucus and informed them that the story's false, a Pelosi aide tells me. WaPo is standing by the story, and the lead writer of the Post piece, Jonathan Weisman, told me that leadership aides told him that the withdrawal language had to go. But the WaPo story goes further than that, saying explicitly that Dems have already "backed down" and offered the concession of removing the withdrawal language. Those aren't the same thing.

Why report that Dems have already caved in the negotiations if they haven't yet? [...]So what happened here? I just emailed Post reporter Weisman and requested comment. His answer:

That is very interesting, since I was told in no uncertain terms by one of her aides that the withdrawal dates had to go, since they could not stand by language Bush would never sign. That was cofirmed by another senior leadership aide and two members of the leadership.

I can say with no reluctance whatsoever that we stand by the story. By the way, nobody has contacted me about it. That should tell you a lot.

Congressional Dems are trying to save face it seems. Marshall continues:

I have no problem believing that these aides said this, or that the withdrawal language is likely to be taken out in the end. But the question remains: If this offer hasn't actually been made yet, why is WaPo saying it has been? It's one thing for the aides to be saying that the language will have to go; it's another to say even before the negotiations have started that the concession has already been offered to the White House. If what the Pelosi and Reid aides are telling me is true, isn't WaPo jumping the gun in saying Dems have already caved in advance of the negotiations?

This all gives rise to a bigger question: Why is much of the media's coverage of this focussed on the Democratic dilemma the veto creates, while so little of it is focussed on the fact that Republicans, too, are in a bind, are trapped between public opinion and their unyielding President, and are going to have to make concessions towards a compromise?

I'm surprised Marshall can't see it. He's usually quite a good analyst. Democrats are going to cave on this simply because their position is ipso facto worse than that of Republicans.

Comments like those made by Harry Reid about the war in Iraq being "lost" coupled with the surrender timetable being demanded by Dems are playing to all the worst stereotypes of Democrats being cut-and-run cowards when it comes to foreign policy.

The veto override failure was a sharp jolt back to reality for Reid, Pelosi, et al., making them realize that they will never get the votes to surrender so they moved accordingly. The Post somehow found out about it and printed it. After that leaked out, the leadership realized that they needed to save face with the extreme left, hence the quasi-denial to Marshall.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013