by Jonathan Singer, Sun May 13, 2007 at 10:42:52 AM EDT
In today's issue of The Washington Post, Michael Abramowitz takes a look at what he calls the "chilly" relationship between the White House and the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill and seems fairly willing to place blame on one end of the table -- though not the one you'd probably expect. Take a look:
For all the outreach, administration officials find it hard to disguise their frustrations over the new realities on Capitol Hill, sniping at Reid privately for his evolving positions on war funding and complaining about their inability to engage the House leadership in serious discussions on Iraq. After Bush vetoed the war spending bill that called for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the president again invited congressional leaders to the White House, thinking they would begin negotiating a bill that both sides would find acceptable.
But according to several sources familiar with the meeting, Pelosi made it clear that House leaders would not engage in serious negotiations with the White House until after another bill passed and moved to a conference committee with the Senate.
During the conversation, the sources said, Hoyer asked the president whether Bolten spoke for him in negotiations, and Bush answered yes without hesitation, seeming to catch the Democrats by surprise. Bush then asked whether House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) spoke for Pelosi, and received what he and his aides regarded as an ambiguous answer. Bush seemed struck by that.
Within a matter of days -- and with no input from the administration -- House Democratic leaders began drafting a new bill, one the president said last week he would veto. White House officials said they learned details of the new measure from newspapers.
Excuse me for being a little skeptical about the White House's account of how its interactions with the Democratic Congress have been playing out. George W. Bush's track record since even before he was inaugurated as President has been clear: He doesn't care about what Democrats have to say about issues -- and at times he doesn't even care about what Republicans in Congress have to say, either.
On just about any issue -- from Iraq to Guantanamo, the creation of the Homeland Security Department to No Child Left Behind, signing statements to Alberto Gonzales -- President Bush has shown a striking tendency to deal in poor faith, backing away from previous pledges to Democrats and Republicans alike and going his own way regardless of public opinion, precedent or even the Constitution. With such a remarkable track record (which I am truly not doing justice in this post), it's no wonder that Democrats are reluctant to show all of their cards before the game has even begun.
And looking at the issue of Iraq, in particular, there is great reason for the Democrats to remain skeptical about the President's overtures. From the first day the possibility of an American invasion of Iraq was even being discussed, the President was couching the debate in such a way as to use Iraq as a way to bludgeon Democrats into submission in a vast array of areas and, what's more, to defeat even some of his few friends within the Democratic ranks. At almost every turn since then he has tried to do the same thing, even to this day insinuating that Democrats are dealing in poor faith (see the article quoted above) if not using his surrogates to outright call the Democrats traitors.
But even more germane to this story, the President has shown no interest -- no interest whatsoever -- in considering the position of the Democrats on Iraq. When Democratic majorities were elected in both chambers of Congress in no small part because Democratic candidates were advocating for a change of course in Iraq to begin to bring the war to a close, President Bush opted to escalate the war rather than begin to ramp it down. This is no sign of good will or even a willingness to come to the table in good faith.
So regardless of this piece of stenography from The Post that puts much too much faith in the word of the White House instead of taking an honest look at the situation, it's clear that it is the White House, not the Democratic Congress, that is holding up any potential deal over Iraq.