Paul Greenberg

Was that George W. Bush or the shade of Harry S Truman speaking immediately after the House of Representatives voted (218 to 212) to order American combat troops out of Iraq? They would have until September of next year to leave. The president's response: Hell, No!

Well, not exactly. That would have been entirely too Trumanesque. Instead, Mr. Bush phrased his rejection of this ultimatum from the House more tactfully, but only slightly so:

"These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen."

Let's hope not. For what would be the effect of the commander-in-chief's accepting a congressional order to withdraw American troops from Iraq by a given date? Here is John McCain, senator from Arizona and presidential hopeful, explaining why he and others would try to strip the bill of this provision when it gets to the Senate:

"We're not prepared to tell the enemy, Hang on, we'll give you a date when we're leaving.' " That appears to be the essence of the "strategy" proposed by the new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and now espoused by its Democratic majority.

John McCain was joined in his effort to protect the commander-in-chief's authority by senators like South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, who may be the last Truman Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Talk about an endangered species.

Let us now praise the 14 Democratic congressmen who refused to go along with their party's plan to cut off the troops' water by September of '08. They included Texas' outspoken Sam Johnson. He opposed not only setting this arbitrary deadline for withdrawal, but also the more than $20 billion in pork that had been included in what was supposed to have been an emergency appropriation for the military.

The bill had been larded with subsidies for special interests, among them spinach growers, shrimp fishermen and the peanut industry. To quote Congressman Johnson's good question: "What does throwing money at Bubba Gump, Popeye the Sailor Man and Mr. Peanut have to do with winning a war? Nothing." Ah, but it had everything to do with attracting votes for General Pelosi's brilliant military strategy.

Some of the bill's promoters claimed they're actually supporting the troops in Iraq by calling for their withdrawal. But surely our enemies would only be emboldened by the knowledge that, come September of '08, they would no longer have to worry about American combat troops making the crucial difference in this struggle.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.