Webb of Frustration


Senator Webb’s appearance on Meet the Press was much better than he is given credit for here. Rather than paraphrase what he said, I would like to explore further what he actually said on the issues.

I’ll quote and add some thoughts from the actual transcript of the show.

Hopefully, we can agree to disagree with Senator Webb while appreciating his clarity and understanding of the issues.

Let’s start with the surge. Senator Webb did an excellent job explaining the drop in violence in Iraq. He describes the four main reasons for the improved situation, and does not give in to the idea that the President deserves the credit. Have a look at his answer in full for the details, and here’s a response to those saying how peachy everything is today:

MR. RUSSERT:  The Washington Post wrote an editorial last month, and let me share it and see if you agree with it or disagree.

“The evidence is now overwhelming that the ‘surge’ of U.S. military forces in Iraq this year has been, in purely military terms, a remarkable success.  By every metric used to measure the war-total attacks, U.S. casualties, Iraqi casualties, suicide bombings, roadside bombs-there” have-“has been an enormous improvement since January…

Credit for these achievements belongs in large part to U.S. soldiers in Iraq, who took on a tremendously challenging new counterterrorism strategy and made it work; to General David Petraeus, the architect of that strategy; and to President Bush, for making the decision to launch the surge against the advice of most of Congress and the country’s foreign policy elite.”

SEN. WEBB:  Well, that’s The Washington Post.  You know, they have strongly editorialized in favor of this war from, from the beginning.  And as I just said, there are a lot of moving parts in play.  I don’t want to take anything away from the performance of the United States military tactically when they’ve been put into a situation.  But there are a lot of other pieces to this, and al-Anbar is a classic example.  And I just said to you exactly what I said to General Petraeus in September when he was testifying, and I reiterated to him when he was over there.  I think if General Petraeus-unless, unless General Petraeus wants to enter the realm of politics, he should be the first to, to acknowledge the situation in al-Anbar preceded the surge.

MR. RUSSERT:  But should President Bush receive credit for undertaking the surge in other areas?

SEN. WEBB:  What I said the night that the surge was announced is what I continue to believe, and that is that it was a tactical adjustment; it didn’t change the overarching strategy of what we were trying to do.  We should express our gratitude for the quality of our fighting people when they’ve been sent into these situations.  But there are three components in terms of a national strategy when-as it relates to Iraq…

(snipped for space, but feel free to read) And then the biggest piece, the one that has not been met, the one that this administration has to step up and accept responsibility for, is the failure for the last five years to match the quality of our military performance with robust regional diplomacy.

He understands what is happening on the ground. He refused to give any credit to the President for implementing the surge. Does this sound like your typical Democrat to you?

Let’s skip ahead to the key issue for many here. Defunding. Senator Webb clearly demonstrates he understands the issue. I’ll quote in full because this is important to so many here:

MR. RUSSERT:  As you well know, funding for the war is a big issue in the Senate.  Every major Democratic candidate for president has opposed funding for the war except Joe Biden…(snipped out the President, your welcome) Should the Congress continue to fund the war in Iraq?

SEN. WEBB:  Well, the problem with the administration’s approach to this is they constantly use fear tactics.  They did the same thing when I offered this wartime amendment, where basically all I was saying was however long our military people have been in Iraq or Afghanistan, they deserve to have that much time at home before they go again.  And the Pentagon, the administration, started saying this was going to cause Americans to die and etc., etc., etc. President Bush has said that…

MR. RUSSERT:  Call up more Guard.

SEN. WEBB:  Or you can, you can develop a rotational policy after, after five years of doing this that’s going to ensure people the same amount of time at home before they go.  If President Bush had said to do it, they’d have been saluting and doing it.  And this is the same sort of thing.  There’s, there’s no one in the Congress that is going to interrupt funding that goes to the ability of the military to take care of the present responsibilities.

The difficulty that, that we have here, it’s sort of the elephant in the bedroom for this entire time period, has been how long are we going to be in Iraq?  What are we funding implicitly as opposed to explicitly?  And we don’t get to have this debate, and so the, the lever that the Congress has, the one pure, clear, constitutional lever, is the appropriations lever, and so the question becomes what is it we’re funding?  If you’re, if you’re-if you want bases in Iraq for the next 50 years, which is what the Republican leadership now is finally openly saying-Mitch McConnell said it on the Senate floor several weeks ago, “This, this should look like Korea 50 years from now”-then you’re going to have one sort of approach, which you ought to be open about it.  So we’re voting for these things, where in there you have money that’s directed toward ongoing operations, but you have all these other sorts of things as well, and so, you know, the question becomes how you draw the line. But the one thing for sure is nobody’s going to cut off funding for the, the things that are necessary for our people to be able to do their job on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MR. RUSSERT:  But many Democrats have said, “We want to stop the funding for the war, period.”

SEN. WEBB:  And I think that’s just not a winning formula.

Bummer, I know. But read his whole explanation.

Now, there are many here who will say that Senator Webb just doesn’t get it when it comes to defunding. The truth is, he does get it, but he doesn’t support the idea on principle. The interview proves it – he clearly understands the option. I happen to disagree with his position.

But – to suggest he is an unprincipled politician, one who is barely if at all better than George Allen, is extremely frustrating to me. Senator Webb has come closer than anyone to passing a bill that would actually help our troops on the field in Iraq. Today. He is a sponsor of the legalization designed to ensure the President can’t declare War on Iran without going through Congress first. Today.

He is doing more than most on these key issues. He has decided not to support defunding, or impeachment for that matter. But he clearly wants to help the troops on the ground by way of extended time at home, and he clearly understands the need to oppose the President now when it comes to Iran.

When I read folks say they are disappointed Webb doesn’t support defunding I understand and appreciate the disappointment. I share it. I actually am personally more disappointed by his unwillingness to impeach.

But the truth is I would much rather hear his reasons straight up rather than deal with the political manner Clinton and Obama have handled the defunding issue. As you may recall, they both voted against funding the last time around only after ensuring their votes wouldn’t really be the ones leading to actually defunding of the war.

If push came to shove, does anyone here actually believe either Clinton or Obama would be the one to cast the deciding vote to defund?

Reality rears its ugly head again for those of us interested in justice for this Administration. There will be no defunding or impeachment before the end of the President’s term. NaGaHa.

Give me a Senator who understands the key issues and explains his position over a scheming politico any day of the week. At least with Webb, I know what I’m dealing with.

And suggesting the Senator from Virginia is little better than the man he replaced, George Allen?

Give me a break.



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  1. I agree with the frustrations expressed by a poster over in Armando’s thread that we do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss our politicians out of hand when we disagree on the issues.

    Eh. Meh. Feh. Bleh. I dunno what else to say.

  2. I’m disappointed with Webb.  I know he understands PLENTY and I understand that he won’t defund based on his principles and fricken fracken fruckin fruckity fruck….he’s placing people in a double bind here and that’s crazy making.

    • Armando on December 3, 2007 at 18:48

    As it applies to me:

    But – to suggest he is an unprincipled politician, one who is barely if at all better than George Allen, is extremely frustrating to me.

    Who siad that? Webb is wrong on princviple and logically so. Let’s copnsider YOUR logic as well. You write:

    Senator Webb has come closer than anyone to passing a bill that would actually help our troops on the field in Iraq.

    NOOOOOOO. He did NOT. For even if Webb could have gotten passage, Bush would VETO. Webb came close to nothing..

    And indeed, that is the fallacy of your post and of Webb’s thinking.

    “Bummer” does not even come close to engaging the problem.

    Congress ahs a Tthe SPENDING POWER. That is what it has. The power of th puirse.

    The power to NOT fund.

    Anyone who does not want to deal with that reality at this point is part of the problem.

    Webb is part of the problem.

    Your essay is a red herring that unintentionally obfuscuates that CENTRAL and ESSENTIAL fact.

    Poor show.

    • pfiore8 on December 3, 2007 at 19:01

    what is clear to ME (i emphasize ME) is that Webb is word-smithing. never a good sign.

    we need to break the bullshit and start insisting that POWER SPEAK TRUTH TO US

    and you know what? i don’t care if Webb thinks the surge IS working. then say that. but how do you really know what any of them mean? isn’t that the problem?

    these politicians don’t really want to give me a choice. they deny my rights by not speaking directly.

    i’m telling you… i’m not voting Dem anymore. i’m voting candidate or writing in.


    howdy Stranger, how the hell are you? and glad to see you back to writing with some frequency.

  3. “There’s, there’s no one in the Congress that is going to interrupt funding that goes to the ability of the military to take care of the present responsibilities.”

    and this:

    SEN. WEBB:  And I think that’s just not a winning formula.

    Is the point here is that because he is a military man,   reasons for not defunding are different and some how more pure then those of the rest of congress? Somehow because his motivation comes from a warriors perspective, it means we should not dismiss him? He is no better no worse than the other pols who spin this war out. Comparisons with Allen are not the point. I see no will to end this war from most politicians be the Democrat or Republican. From another warrior:

    “Not only is there no secret recipe: the very possibility of counterinsurgency in itself is bankrupt and corrupt. Certainly we can continue — with select effectiveness — to prop up littoral princes, perhaps forever. But we cannot hope to help authoritarian allies hold down peoples? in the central societies of Islam — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt — forever. In these societies, as we surely know, any insurgency that trumps the tender mercies of a tyrant’s police apparat will be like Roman Italy with Spartacus on-the-loose. We cannot stage-manage the big societies of a civilization: witness Iraq.”     Michael Vlahos

    Stage managing the politics of war as well.    

  4. … I think there will always be posters (and just plain Americans as well who don’t even look at the blogs) who will personally slam a representative if they don’t vote their way.  That part of your essay I think is weak because of that.  The kinds of folks who will vent their frustration in this way aren’t going to change because their motivation in yelling at the politicians is a personal one, not an intellectual one.

    At least that’s the way I look at it.  I don’t think there’s too many folks here in particular who would argue Webb isn’t a man of principle.

    It’s always good, tho, to post the entirety of what was said so folks can make up their own mind, and I thought your linking to the transcript was a good idea — too many of us (including me!) are lazy that way, and it’s worth calling us on, imo.

    For me, defunding is the right thing to do, both in principle and morally and pragmatically.  So I would have to agree in this instance that regardless of his motivation, Webb is wrong on this and that his decision is giving fuel to capitulation on the war.  He himself admits this is the only power Congress has.

    I have not given up on impeachment nor have I given up on defunding.  I am well aware neither may come to pass.

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