George Will

Congress has used denial of funds to express itself on, and influence, conflicts in Vietnam (1973) and Nicaragua (1982 and 1984). Also, on Nov. 2, 1983, two weeks after the bombing that killed 241 Americans in the Marine barracks at the Beirut airport, the House of Representatives voted on a measure to force the withdrawal of the Marines by March 1984, by cutting off funds for the Lebanon operation. The measure was defeated, 274-153, but the 153 included 18 Democrats who are still in the House, nine of whom are committee chairmen.

A question for the 18: If they believed defunding the Beirut operation was proper, why is it not proper to defund U.S. involvement in Iraq? One answer insistently suggests itself: They think that withdrawal would be too risky. Does Clinton agree?

Regarding the Republican race, for many months commentators have said that when the Republican base learns the facts about Rudy Giuliani's personal life (an annulled first marriage, a messy divorce, then a third marriage) and views on social issues (for abortion rights, gay rights and gun control, in each case with limits), support for him will evaporate. But such commentary is becoming self-refuting. The insistent reiteration of it during Giuliani's coast-to-coast campaigning is telling activist Republicans -- the sort of people who read political commentary -- the facts about Giuliani. And so far those facts are not causing a recoil from him: According to the USA Today/CNN poll, his lead over John McCain has risen from 31-27 in November to 40-24 today.

This does not mean that the social issues have lost their saliency. People for whom opposition to abortion is very important might, however, think that in wartime it is not supremely important. Or they might reason, correctly, that presidents can change abortion policy only by changing the Supreme Court, so Giuliani's pledge to nominate justices like Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and John Roberts is sufficient.

Furthermore, California's primary is being moved up to Feb. 5, and New Jersey's and some other states' might be moved to that date, so Giuliani's views on social issues might become, on balance, advantages. And suppose Giuliani convinces Republicans that he can become the first Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988 to be competitive for California's (now 55) electoral votes.

Markets are mechanisms that generate information. The political market is working: Americans are learning much about the candidates, and themselves.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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