During four years of war, the United States Senate has not taken a stand on our policies in Iraq. It now has a duty to do just that. If only it would shut up and vote.
But instead it plays political games, seeking partisan advantage over solutions. The world's so-called greatest deliberative body has become a collection of blithering yakkers who make fools of themselves and suckers of us.
For the past two days, while our troops are fighting for a mission that has run off the rails, the Senate has tied itself in knots over procedure. It is, one member scoffed, "a debate about whether we should debate." He left out the finger-pointing, the grandstanding and the running from duty that can properly be called cowardice.
At a time of war, the Senate's dereliction is a scandal. Shame on them all, Democrats and Republicans. They are playing "Gotcha" games instead of tending to the most important issue of our time.
Too many Republicans are wrapping themselves in the flag by claiming that any criticism of President Bush's troop surge aids the enemy and hurts our soldiers. With White House arm-twisting, they united to block a vote on the lone resolution that has bipartisan support. In doing so, they make Bush's war their war.
Those who surrender to the party line should remember this: It does not benefit the troops or our democratic ideals to silence dissent.
Democrats are no better. They cower from the GOP challenge to vote on all resolutions and not just the one that criticizes the troop surge. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada denounced the GOP attempt to force multiple votes as a "trick play" and told Republicans, "You can run but you can't hide."
Actually, those charges apply to Democrats, too. Reid's pulling a trick and trying to hide by refusing to allow a vote on all resolutions. Most frightening to him is a GOP resolution that would promise not to cut funding for the troops. Reid knows he would be courting political disaster if he put his members on the spot, especially those running for President in 2008.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, for example, are heavy critics of the war, but the last thing they want to do is to take a clear stand on funding. A "yes" vote on that resolution would bind them to the war no matter what they say in the next two years. A "no" vote would open them to charges they are abandoning our troops. One vote would hurt them in the party primaries, the other in the general election.
So Iraq will just have to wait its turn. Politics comes first.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona is also in a jam. His resolution supports Bush's surge but sets benchmarks for the Iraqi government, thus backing the troops while giving himself an exit strategy if the effort collapses. That political straddle is an example of how twisted McCain has become. He seethed on the Senate floor yesterday that Democratic claims of supporting the troops "won't sell" if they criticize the surge. Yet he has been the harshest critic of American commanders and has threatened to torpedo the promotion of one.
A frustrated John Warner (R-Va.) called on this "great institution to express itself" by actually voting instead of just talking. Excellent idea, but Warner should have called the Senate a "formerly great institution."
Count its demise as another casualty of Iraq.