It seems like months since John Edwards spoke at Riverside Church and challenged his former colleagues in the United States Senate to use their power to end the war in Iraq. He said that they have the power and should use it, and that the Senate had "a moral duty to cut off funding."
This past weekend drove home the urgency of his message as over two dozen American soldiers were killed during some of the bloodiest days in Iraq since the war began. Hundreds of Iraq's citizens continue to die in an almost constant flow of bombings. This tragic loss of life is a grim reminder of the war's toll on both America and Iraq. And now Bush's escalation has begun and more troops are arriving everyday in Baghdad.
At home, as candidates announce for president left and right, Congress' reaction to the escalation is at best disappointing and at worse outrageously delinquent. Few members of Congress are embracing Senator Kennedy's proposal to cut off funds or Senator Feingold's demand for a specific timetable for withdrawal.
In fact, Democrats are amplifying Bush's mantra with their pledge that they will never cut off funds for the war. It is as if we find great comfort in repeating Bush's strongest argument over and over again. Let's be clear, cutting off funds is not about cutting off support for the troops. It's about ending this war and bringing our troops home. To even give credence to Bush's PR-tested proclamation that we would leave our troops at risk is just wrong and stupid politics.
And now we have to watch the Senate debate a resolution that meekly disagrees with the President's escalation. It has no power. It has no enforcement provisions and can be easily ignored by the administration. Even worse, this weak resolution is currently being watered down so more timid Senators will vote for it. They are debating a resolution that essentially means nothing and has no power. While the press will play it as a "set back" for the President, he will simply ignore it as more troops arrive in Iraq.
At least members of Congress feel like they have to state some kind of opposition to the war, and I guess that can be considered progress.
This weekend, Senator Clinton and her spokespeople said she had been a long-time opponent of the war. Boy, this is news to many of us who have fought this war from day one. Even David Gregory of the Today Show told Terry McAuliffe that wasn't true and that Senator Obama had been against the war far longer than Clinton. McAuliffe simply replied that she had been tough on Rumsfeld when he last testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
During the upcoming election, I think we will see more of this type of revisionism. Trust me, I want long-time supporters of the war to change their minds. That is the only way the war is going to end. But presidential contenders beware - voters will see through candidates who pretend that they didn't make serious misjudgments while marching our nation off to war.
Senator Obama has been against the war from the beginning and deserves strong praise. But now that he is running for president, we need to see him step up to the plate and sign on to the type of legislation that Senator Kennedy and Senator Feingold have put forward. This past weekend, some powerful Democrats told me that a strong Iraq position would be poor politics for Obama. But then who will tell the families of American causalities that their sons and daughters had to die because the politics weren't right?
The fact of the matter is that we are escalating. The watered down resolution drifting through Congress did nothing for the two dozen Americans who gave their lives this weekend. And it certainly won't stop the next two dozen deaths. How can we face these soldiers' grieving parents when the entire country knows that the war was a huge mistake?
I think we should slightly amend Senator Edwards' challenge to Members of Congress of both parties: You have the power. Use it. Or lose it!