In November 2006, Republicans were voted out of power in the Congress and Democrats installed to bring an end to U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq.
The war had been going on as long as America's war on Nazi Germany. No end was in sight. U.S. casualties and costs were rising. Bush's approval rating had sunk to record lows.
The day after the GOP rout, Bush cashiered his war minister, Donald Rumsfeld. In December, the Iraq Study Group, chaired by Bush I Secretary of State James Baker, released its report.
"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. ... A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian disaster. ... The situation in Baghdad and several provinces is dire. ... Pessimism is pervasive. ... Violence is increasing in scope, complexity and lethality."
His policy collapsing, Bush made a last throw of the dice. Gen. David Petraeus was named to command U.S. forces, and his request for a "surge" of 21,500 additional U.S. troops accepted. Petraeus also demanded and got 10,000 more support troops.
Still, by April, as the "surge" brigades began to arrive, Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, was declaring, "This war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything." Democrats, the party base goading them on, tried to impose upon Bush, as a condition of further funding for the war, deadlines for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Bush vetoed the bill. He was sustained. Then, he rubbed the Democrats' noses in their defeat by demanding and getting $100 billion more to finance the surge and the war. There are today 30,000 more troops in Iraq than when the Democratic Congress was elected.
As Petraeus testifies, the antiwar movement appears broken. Reid has said his party will not try to de-fund the war or impose new deadlines. It will follow GOP Sen. John Warner, who has suggested it might be helpful if the president withdrew a brigade by Christmas, to signal the Iraqi government to get its house in order. Petraeus has agreed to that.
Next April is the date when the Iraq Study Group said all U.S. combat brigades should be out of Iraq. By then, Bush and Petraeus will have tens of thousands more troops in Iraq than when the Democrats were elected and the ISG reported. The lame duck is not all that lame.
What happened to the party of Speaker Pelosi and Reid, which was going to end U.S. involvement in the war and not permit Bush to pursue victory the way Richard Nixon pursued it in Vietnam for four years?
Answer: Terrified of the possible consequences of the policies they recommend, Democrats lack the courage to impose those policies.