Reid and the Democrats are risking having this can tied to the tail of their donkey. For though Americans want the war to end and the troops brought home, they do not want America to lose the war. And that may explain the duplicity of today's debate.
Reid and four Democratic candidates for president -- Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd -- voted to give Bush a blank check for war. Now that the war is going badly, all five are calling for withdrawal. But neither they nor their party wants to be seen as responsible for the defeat that appears inevitable if we depart now.
Politically, cynical Harry and cynical Chuck are right.
If the war is still raging and Americans are dying at the same rate in November 2008, Republicans lose the White House and Congress. However, if U.S. forces have been defunded and withdrawn by Congress, and November 2008 rolls around with a strategic disaster and Cambodian-style bloodbath in Iraq, Reid's party could be credibly charged with having cut and run, lost the war and caused the greatest debacle in American history. The stakes here are huge.
Democrats believe they have a winning hand on Iraq. Polls seem to confirm it. But the situation is not static. There are more cards to be dealt in this highest of high-stakes poker games. And what looks politically shrewd in April 2007 could look like suicidal folly in November 2008.
As Bush must know, if U.S. casualties are not cut and U.S. troops have not been drawn down by November 2008, his party loses the White House and victorious Democrats will liquidate the war, my sense is that Bush himself will begin the withdrawals.
But as he believes a complete U.S. pullout will ensure both a U.S. defeat and disaster, he will leave in Iraq, on Election Day 2008, enough U.S. forces to prevent that defeat. And his successor, Republican or Democrat, will be the one to complete the pullout and lose the war, if indeed, as Harry Reid assures us, "the war is lost."