Robert Novak

But as is true with most Iraq-Vietnam analogies, de-authorization of the Tonkin Gulf resolution bears little resemblance to what is being contemplated today. President Richard M. Nixon began pulling U.S. combat troops out of Vietnam soon after he took office in 1969, and offered no objection to repealing the LBJ resolution. It passed the Senate 81 to 10 in 1970, with unanimous support from Republican senators.

In contrast, the proposed 2007 de-authorization looks like a Democratic escape from the wrath of the anti-war party faithful. Of the 29 Democrats who voted for Bush's war resolution over four years ago, 21 are still in the Senate, seven are up for re-election next year, and three -- Biden, Christopher Dodd and Hillary Clinton -- are running for president.

After checking with anti-war Republicans on recess last week, I found that several who had favored a non-binding resolution rejecting Bush's policy are loath to give Democrats an Iraq get-out-of-jail-free card. An exception was Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, who indicated he might favor de-authorization but never would cut off funds. However, Coleman told me: "I don't see us going back and rewriting history." Similarly, Hagel said: "We are not going back and rewind every decision we made."

Hagel's position is critical. Before the recess, Biden and Levin sought support from the conservative Nebraska Republican who had been one of only two Republicans supporting their tough non-binding resolution. Hagel long has been appalled by Bush's war policy, but he is rightly suspicious of Democratic ploys with no impact on dire conditions in Iraq.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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