Griffs Notes 1/9/07

Call it Ted's Battle with George's War.

Sen. Ted Kennedy was scheduled some time ago to give a major policy speech today on health care at the National Press Club. Not surprisingly, he spoke about the war in Iraq instead and took the opportunity to pick the Democrats first fight with President Bush – stopping the surge!

Some have called it a pre-emptive strike against the President’s much anticipated new Iraq policy being unveiled tomorrow night. And you have to give Kennedy some credit because he is at least consistent. He opposed the war before it began, voted against it and remains determined to end it now. Only this time around, he’s attempting to pit the Legislative branch against the Executive branch by introducing legislation that would force the president to get congressional approval for any additional funding for more troops. And if he wins this battle, it could be a very long two years for President Bush.

Sen. Kennedy spoke about Congress as having the “power of the purse,” and said that they must “act now” to prevent an “escalation of war” – the mistake of Vietnam that he did not fail to point out on six different occasions in the speech.

“Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam,” he said.

He drew heavily upon what he perceived to be the mandate of the November elections to end the war and said:

“There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action. And Congress can demand a justification from the President for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out.”

And it would appear that Senate Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi are on board with this line of thinking. (It’s my understanding that the President does ultimately have the power to send additional troops, but Congress also has to fund it which makes his sell that much more significant.)

Interestingly too, in a packed ballroom of journalists like Chris Matthews, Helen Thomas and Eleanor Clift, Kennedy received a standing ovation at the end.

So I would submit to those who may have tired of hearing what the President has to say about the war in Iraq to tune in tomorrow night. President Bush is about to give what may be one of his most important speeches of his life.

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