Saturday, December 16, 2006

Peter Welch's Iraq Problem

As the Iraq Study Group suggested he do, President Bush is getting ready to send twenty thousand or more American troops into Iraq.

The New York Times has the story here:

I think that sending more troops into Iraq is our last (and only) real option. My thoughts on this can be found here:

This development represents a serious political problem for Vermont's newly elected Congressman Peter Welch. Welch ran for Congress on the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" platform, promised voters he would "hold President Bush accountable" and would create a timetable for troop withdrawal.

Of course I could be wrong. Congressman Welch might be flying high without a care in the world. But here is why I don't think that I am.

An interesting statistic from the 2006 House race between Martha Rainville and Peter Welch that no one has talked much about is that polling shows that when Rainville lost on election day her "favorables" were HIGHER than Welch's and her "negatives" were LOWER than Welch's.

On election day more people liked Martha Rainville than liked Peter Welch and more people disliked Peter Welch than disliked Martha Rainville.

However, in 2006 it just didn't matter. Rainville still lost.

She lost because Peter's "I'm mad as hell" message deeply resonated with a state that was, well, mad as hell about the President and the war. Nothing else mattered in the race.

Carolyn Dwyer's talked about the Welch/Rainville race with Phil Baruth in last weekend's Vermont Guardian. Carolyn is a savvy operator who knows her business and the state of Vermont. I will concede that she is correct in many (but not all) of her critiques of Martha's campaign.

However, if she is being honest, she will admit (both teams were looking at essentially the same polling data) that on election day 2006 the less popular candidate won. And since she is so savvy and honest, she knows why this polling is significant. And she understands that Congressman Welch is fast approaching a series of decisions that will greatly influence his chances for re-election in 2008.

The great irony of the 2006 mid-terms is that this country - sick of war, sick of the President and sick of Donald Rumsfeld - voted to "throw the bums out" and give control of Congress back to the Democrats so we can "move Iraq in a new direction". The voters, for all that hard work, are going to get "twenty thousand or more troops into Iraq".

If it wasn't so sad I would be laughing my ass off.

Which brings us back to Welch (and the Democratic Congress in general). If I am a betting man, I am betting that when Vermonters held their noses and voted for Welch's "new direction in Iraq" over a candidate they actually liked the voters DID NOT think that they were voting for sending twenty thousand or more American troops into Baghdad.

Unfortunately, for Peter, that's just what the headlines are reading.

It's an open secret. President Bush does not give a Texas hoot about Welch, Nancy Pelosi, Republicans, people who worked for his father or anybody else. Bush is on a mission from God, and by God he is going to finish what he started in Iraq.

President Bush isn't going to pull troops out of Iraq. The only way American troops are coming out of Iraq is if the Democratic Congress cuts off funding for the war.

Let me repeat that again so that everyone reading this is clear - The only way American troops are coming home from Iraq is if the Democrats cut off funding for the war. The Democrats have this power.

So, what's the big deal? Democrats were elected to "change the course in Iraq". Why do just that?

Because rage is easy and leadership is always harder than you think. Always.

Me, I'm easy and opinionated. I'm betting that the Democrats don't have the guts to cut off funding. I'm betting that they are too worried that they will be labeled "soft on national security" going into the 2008 Presidential race. I'm betting that they're betting voters will have forgotten their 06' rage by 08'. I'm betting Pelosi really begins to like the view from the Speaker's office. I'm betting that all the Democrat talk about "changing the course in Iraq" was just that, talk.

I'm betting.

Who should be more upset about this? A moderate Republican who believed fiercely that Martha Rainville was far superior to Peter Welch? Or an anti-war/anti-Bush voter who fiercely wanted to believe that Welch was the real deal?

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" is a tough sell when Rumsfeld is gone, the Democrats control Congress and you sit on the Rules Committee, which is the most powerful, inside baseball committee in the House.

The letters to the editor have already started. This is going to be interesting.