Update - The Olbermann show just cancelled, citing other breaking news. Sorry about that - I committed the sin I shouldn't have committed - telling folks you are going to be on TV when you are booked but before you go on. Sorry I cried wolf, or, in this case, cried Olbermann.
In a new op-ed for the Baltimore Sun today, I walk through how the progressive movement's pressure and protest helped force a majority pro-war House and Senate to pass tough antiwar legislation (barring breaking news or a major plane delay, I was scheduled to be on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann to discuss the topics in this op-ed, and my memo analyzing what Democrats should do if Bush vetoes the final bill, but that has since been cancelled). Though the legislation is far from perfect, our movement, including the progressive lawmakers who used brinksmanship, should be extraordinarily proud.
The op-ed also discusses what has to happen in the upcoming House-Senate negotiations - and it is clear from a Los Angeles Times story today that progressive lawmakers are shrewdly using the lessons from the initial vote to make sure the final bill is as strong as possible. The story quotes courageous Out of Iraq Caucus members Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) essentially threatening to vote against any final bill whose timelines are significantly weakened from the House version. This is going to be the point of friction, as pro-war Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) are quoted in the same story threatening to vote against any final bill if timelines for completion of withdrawal are made binding like they are in the House version, rather than non-binding as they are in the Senate version (the Senate's version, by the way, does have important binding language about when to BEGIN withdrawing).
Progressive lawmakers, as I say in my op-ed, must hold the line as firmly as possible, especially considering CBS News' poll out this week showing a strong majority of Americans support the House's binding timetable for withdrawal. Washington pundits and reporters will probably continue billing people like Nelson and Pryor as "centrists" but - as usual - the definition of "centrism" in Washington, D.C. means being wholly and completely out of step with the center of American public opinion.
The real centrists are people like Ellison, Nadler, Doggett and the other antiwar Democrats standing firm - and at least judging by their public statements, it's clear that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid understand this basic truth. Their public statements also suggest that they understand that they have a mandate to stand firm against President Bush, if he vetoes the entire bill when it reaches his desk. It will be up to us, the progressive movement, to help sustain and solidify public pressure and support for these leaders to follow through on ending the war.
Read the full Baltimore Sun op-ed here. And if you happen to be around, watch MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight for my discussion with Keith about the war, and the congressional efforts to end it.