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The Candidates Side-by-Side on Iraq

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Take a look at how the Democratic candidates compare on the key issues in the Iraq debate.

Candidate Governor

Bill Richardson

Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton

Chris Dodd

John Edwards

Barack Obama
Supports Leaving An Indeterminate
Number Of Troops In Iraq For An Indefinite Amount Of Time
No1Yes6 Yes11 Yes16 Yes20 Yes23
Supports The Principle Of Congress De-Authorizing The War Yes2 Yes7Yes12 Yes17 No21 Yes24
Supports De-Authorizing The War Now -- Before Congress Adjourns For Summer Break Yes3 No8 No13No No No25
Supports Removing All Troops Within Six Months Of De-Authorizing The WarYes4 No No No No22No
Voted For The First Supplemental Funding Bill That Contained Loopholes Allowing Bush To Leave An Indeterminate Number
Of Troops In Iraq Indefinitely
(Vetoed By Bush)
N/A - Supports leaving no residual troops in Iraq. Will have all troops redeployed within 6 months. 5Yes9 Yes14 Yes18 N/A - But ran ads after Bush vetoed the first supplemental bill stating Congress should "Send him (Bush) the same bill again and again" Yes26
Voted for Reid-Feingold Legislation with Loopholes Allowing Bush to Leave An Indeterminate Number Or Troops in Iraq Indefinitely N/A Yes10 Yes15 Yes19 N/A Yes27

The documentation is on the site. I would be interested if any of the other candidate supporters take issue with these claims.

There are a couple of reasons why I post this, none of them because I support Richardson (though I certainly could; and I strongly support his position on Iraq). First, I think it's problematic if Biden's position of staying in Iraq for a longer period becomes the de facto position that Obama supports explicitly, and neither Clinton nor Edwards confronts in disagreement. If the Democrats go into '08 fuzzy on getting out of Iraq, we will lose again. The lesson of '06 would be ignored in favor of repeating the mistake of '04. And secondly, getting out of Iraq ASAP is the lynchpin for Democratic wins beyond '08.

My response as to why the differences between the Democratic candidates positioning on Iraq hasn't been a big issue is basically because the perception among Democrat partisans is that it's become the de facto position, given the '06 referendum, that we will pull out of Iraq as soon as possible when gaining the control of the Presidency, but not a day before Bush is gone will we gain an inch. In essence, I have argued that any minor differences does not have traction against the greater contrast of the Democratic vs Bush position, on ending the occupation in Iraq vs a continued military presence.

I have also thought about what would occur if a Democratic candidate won the Presidency in 2008, but then did not follow through on pulling out of Iraq completely as soon as feasible. The base would be revolting, the Republicans would be screaming about the number of soldiers dead on a Democrats watch, their approval rating would plummet, and it would be a nightmare scenario for us trying to hold onto control of Congress in the 2010 mid-term election.

I was struck by this strongly after viewing the back and forth between Richardson and Biden, and the follow-up from the frontrunners (and their acquiescence with Biden). I actually agree somewhat with Biden's position about helping to divide up Iraq, similar to how, with the UN, we did with Yugoslavia. But I don't think the time for beginning that process is the middle of 2009; by then, we should be out of Iraq. Read The War as We Saw It for a fundamental rejection of the Biden Doctrine of Occupation. Bill Richardson seems to be the only Democratic candidate that understands the importance of that happening as soon as possible, and drawing that out in as black and white terms as possible.

Regardless of whom the Democratic presidential candidate is, if we have a strong distinction to run against the Republicans over the issue of ending the occupation of Iraq, we will win. If the Democrats end the occupation as soon as possible in 2009, and not occupy Iraq a day longer than necessary, the party will be rewarded with gains in 2010. Then, following a successful majority redistricting, a decade-long congressional super-majority can culminate in 2012. But making that happen, and getting that endorsement for a progressive agenda for America, begins with fulfilling the promise to get out of Iraq as soon as Democrats take control of the government (and not fucking unilaterally then head into Pakistan or buildup in Afghanistan, or Iran, or any other middle east country, either, ever again).