Blue Streak: Lily-Livered Democrats Lose Game of Chicken

Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, calls the language "extremely weak."

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, says she is "not likely to vote for [it]." sent an e-mail Wednesday morning to its 3 million-plus members demanding that Democrats vote no: "Every single Democrat must vote against this bill. This is a key test vote on whether your representative is serious about ending the war."

The bill is the current version of the Iraq spending bill, which many Democrats, let alone those of us who voted for them, believed should include a timetable for withdrawal of the troops. It doesn't.

Oh yes, there is some mush-headed language written by the Republicans that creates 18 "benchmarks" for political and legislative change in Iraq, and asks the president to report on progress beginning in late July.

After all, why rush when things are going so well? And if the Iraqis fail to meet the benchmarks, what happens?

How about nothing? Theoretically, the Iraqis could lose their "right" to reconstruction aid, which isn't working anyway, and which obviously is irrelevant to bringing the troops home.

And under the terms of the deal, the president is free to waive the benchmarks anyway, which means that the language might as well be sent over on toilet paper so it won't clog the plumbing when the president flushes it.

Who made this deal? Who do you think?

The Democrats who were elected to end the war did, because they were afraid to take on the President in a real showdown.

Nancy Pelosi may vote against it, but she was in the room. Harry Reid can recognize b.s. when he sees it, but claims it was the best they could do.

If this is the best they can do, what are they doing there?

The Democrats' excuse is that the president would have vetoed any bill that included a timetable for bringing home our soldiers, something he's done once already, and that they didn't have the votes to override his veto.

And without a spending bill, the Democrats were afraid they would be blamed for not "supporting the troops," which is the third rail in Washington conventional wisdom about politics.

Now, I could make the case that you don't support the troops by leaving them with a bull's-eye on their backs and no plan to bring them home; that the Democrats are still refighting the Vietnam War, petrified of the "weak" label, even though the truth is that we were right about that war, just as we are about this one; and that strength comes from standing up for what you believe in, not caving in to cover your rear end.

I could even make the case that had it not been for the war, the Democrats would never have gotten control of Congress, and that there's no point to having a Democratic speaker if she's cutting deals that she herself can't support, but expects others to held their noses and vote for.

I might also point out that the reason that Congress has sunk below the even the president in terms of public approval (although still above Dick Cheney, who is almost down to his immediate family) is because of the correct perception that they aren't doing what they were sent to Washington to accomplish.

Indeed, in the talking points sent out Wednesday by the Democratic leadership to "Democratic talkers," the official spinmeisters claim that "Democrats are forcing President Bush to finally accept accountability for this war. As we continue our fight to fully fund the troops and change course in Iraq to make America more secure, we refuse to give the President a blank check."

In other words, they know what they're supposed to do; the problem is that they aren't doing it.

Instead, in what the Washington Post has correctly described as a "victory for President Bush," the Democrats "relent[ed] on [the] pullout timetable," and gave the Republicans what they wanted.

When you're playing chicken, the coward always loses.

Click here to read Susan's response to your e-mail.

Click here to link to Susan's new book, "Soulless."

Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first woman President of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.

Estrich's books include the just published “Soulless,” “The Case for Hillary Clinton,” “How to Get Into Law School,” “Sex & Power,” “Real Rape,” “Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System” and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women.”

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the “Blue Streak” column for

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