03/14/2007 10:47 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Politics 101: Conning America Is Not A Matter of "Conscience"

The Hill Newspaper reports this morning that "House Democratic leaders will not whip the Iraq supplemental spending bill, on grounds they don't want to apply political pressure on a matter of war and peace." This is the supplemental bill with a binding timeline for ending the war in Iraq - you know, the central campaign pledge Democrats ran on to take back Congress just 4 months ago. Now I realize memories are short in Washington, D.C. and that the Establishment of both parties works hard to create near-instantaneous amnesia (this is why pundits and politicians, for instance, chastise anyone who reminds the public that President Bush brazenly lied us into war - we're not supposed to remember that anymore). But asking the American public to forget the central theme of a national election that took place less than 18 weeks ago is, in a word, absurd.

And it's clear that's what at least some key House Democrats are trying to do, when you read this passage:

'"It's a conscience vote,' House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said after yesterday's Democratic Caucus meeting...House leaders normally do not whip votes of conscience."

So what was the Democratic Party's central campaign promise of the 2006 election - to take concrete steps to end the Iraq War - is now being billed by the same Democratic politicians as merely a matter of "conscience," and of course, we are led to believe that in saintly, pious Washington, folks "normally do not whip on votes of conscience."

I would call this sleight of hand but that would be an insult to con artists and used car salesmen everywhere. Remember, this statement is not aimed at progressives, because, as the Hill notes, members of the Out of Iraq Caucus are not expected to offer amendments, and most progressives are expected to swallow their reservations about voting for supplemental war spending in exchange for the bill's binding timeline language. No, the leadership's statement about not whipping votes is aimed specifically at taking pressure off the faction of pro-war Democrats way out of the mainstream of American public opinion and who are threatening to undermine their entire party by voting against the bill because it has a timeline.

The Democratic leadership refusing to pressure this faction of pro-war, out-of-the-mainstream Democrats ridicules the very title "Democratic Leadership" that these high-ranking politicians flaunt. At a time when state legislators pushing antiwar resolutions are facing down right-wing intimidation; at a time when senior antiwar leaders like Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI) are facing down hysterical attacks and working overtime to cobble together the strongest possible bill that has a chance of garnering a majority vote - it is an abomination that other party elders would run to reporters to let the world know they believe lying to the public in a national election is not something to try to aggressively prevent, but instead is a matter of "conscience."

UPDATE: Stoller has a good list of pro-war Democrats who are threatening to kill the legislation to create a binding timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.