Iraq Troop Surge: Trigger For Political Stalemate?
President Bush addresses the nation tonight at 9 pm to explain his new plan for Iraq, which includes a surge in the number of Americans on the ground. Key Democrats including Ted Kennedy fiercely oppose the Bush plan and are threatening action. On today’s "Power Lunch" CNBC’s Bill Griffeth examined whether this is the end of bi-partisan cooperation we’ve been hearing so much about – and if a huge power clash between the Democrats and the GOP is about to get underway.
Tonight, President Bush is expected to tell the nation he’s sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq. (There are approximately 132,000 there now.) The White House is also working on its appeal for more war funds, believed to be a record $100 billion.
Sen. Edward (Ted) Kennedy (D) from Massachusetts is one of the President's most vocal opponents, and compared Iraq to Vietnam in a speech Tuesday at the National Press Club. "In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy… Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam."
“This is going to strain (relations) tremendously,” said CNBC Chief Washington Corespondent John Harwood. “Especially now that Ted Kennedy has stepped up and said he wants to try and force the President to seek authorization from Congress before he can send more troops.”
The question becomes whether Ted Kennedy can rally other Democrats to back a roadblock of this magnitude. “ I think a lot of them are leery of anything that looks like we’re going to cut off funding for troops already there." added Time Magazine’s Perry Bacon. "It will be more of a we disagree than a we’re actually going to stop you from doing it.”
John Harwood agreed that’s the case right now. But, Senator Kennedy could be gaining momentum. “This is a dynamic process and what Democrats are going to do is see how much support there is, especially GOP support for a resolution disapproving for this surge. And then they’re going to consider whether to get behind things like Kennedy’s legislation.”
This is just the kind of power play likely to spark major consequences. “I think one of the places where you might see a consequence is with immigration reform,” continued Harwood. “This is one (piece of legislation) important to businesses which want a guest worker program. The Democratic leadership position is quite similar to President Bush’s but there’s a lot to work through. And it’s going to take some time. The more we’re debating Iraq…. the less time there is to try and get something like that done which is very ambitious and going to take a lot of time.”
There are, however, a few issues the parties are more likely to agree upon, regardless of what happens in Iraq. “I think that the parties might agree on increasing the minimum wage,” commented Bacon. “I think they might agree on changing the lobbying rules, to some extent, to sort of reduce corruption in Congress.”
But even those issues could be used as bargaining chips, especially after tomorrow when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice goes before Congress to testify about the Iraq War. “The Democrats are going to try and use the hearings to push back…They’re going to try and mobilize their opposition to this war. That’s a big part of what these hearings are about.”
The President's speech can be seen tonight on NBC and MSNBC at 9 pm EST.