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Pelosi's Triumph

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Friday's vote against the war in Iraq was a double triumph: A landmark vote to put an end to the mad policies of George Bush and an unusually unified stand by a Democratic Party often distinguished by its disunity. The leader who brought Democrats together was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

H.R. 1591, The US Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, calls upon President Bush to use common sense in his management of the Iraq conflict. The contents of H.R. 1591 have been largely overlooked in the debate about the philosophical issues behind the bill: whether or not it is the role of Congress to exercise oversight of the President in his role as commander-in-chief. Republicans say no: any attempt to rein in Bush's policies in Iraq amounts to "micro-managing" the conduct of the war. Democrats say yes: Congress has the constitutional duty to check the war powers of the President; particularly when that President is George Bush, someone whose judgment has proved to be consistently off the mark.

The contents of H.R. 1591 reflect the will of the American people, who have soured on this war and Bush's leadership. Americans want our troops to be fully funded, but don't want the duration of the war to be open ended: a point Bush steadfastly ignores.

The March 6th Gallup Poll results mirror the intent of H.R. 1591. Fifty-nine percent of respondents oppose Bush's "surge" plan: his addition of 21,500 troops to those already in Iraq. Fifty-seven percent support setting a cap on the number of troops in Iraq. Sixty percent support establishing a "timetable" so that troops are withdrawn "by the end of next year." Seventy-seven percent support "requiring U.S. troops to come home from Iraq if Iraq's leaders fail to meet promises to reduce violence there." However, sixty-one percent of Gallup Poll respondents oppose "Denying the funding needed to send any additional U.S. troops to Iraq." In other words, Americans don't want more troops sent to Iraq, believe there needs to be a plan to bring them home, but want to fully fund them while they are there: the public wants the contents of H.R. 1591.

Given the fact that H.R. 1591 so closely follows the reasoning of the American people, the wonder is that it did not pass by more than a six-vote margin (218-212). The explanation is that all but two Republicans voted against it: yet another indication that when it comes to national security, Republicans are lemmings, totally willing to let mad George lead the United States off a cliff.

What's equally amazing is that all but fourteen Democrats voted for H.R. 1591. Republicans may be lemmings, easily led in a destructive direction, but all too often Dems have been cats: unwilling, as a group, to be led in any direction. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi managed to unite all facets of Congressional Democrats: Conservatives-so called "blue dogs", Centrists, and Progressives. That's the real triumph in this vote: Democrats united against this war. Joined together to express the will of the American people. And, to stand for a clear alternative to Bush's "stay until we win" philosophy.

It's worth remembering that there were those who felt Pelosi was an unlikely choice to unify House Democrats. Critics argued that Dems needed someone like burly Republican Dennis Hastert, a former wrestling coach, or the Machiavellian Newt Gingrich to whip them into shape. But it was petite, feminine Nancy Pelosi who became the first woman chosen as Speaker of the House of Representatives. And Pelosi-an outspoken opponent of this war from the onset; one of the few Democrats who voted against the Congressional authorization for the war; and the only member of the 2002 House Leadership who said Iraq was not an imminent danger to the United States-who secured the Democratic votes required to pass "The US Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act." Nancy Pelosi, an unabashed liberal.

It was Speaker of the House Pelosi who managed to herd the Democratic Congressional cats and head them in a direction that reflects the will of the American people. Therefore, H.R. 1591 is Speaker Pelosi's triumph. A triumph that all progressives should savor: a liberal woman is providing the leadership required to extricate the United States from Iraq.

H.R. 1591 is a good first step towards ending the dreadful war in Iraq. It's an indication that Democrats have unified to oppose President Bush's ill-conceived and reckless plans. And an indication that Nancy Pelosi is a leader to be reckoned with.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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