All these Democrats do is talk, talk, talk

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Talk today about Sgt. Liam Madden, a kid from Vermont who joined the Marines after high school and ended up in Anbar Province, who says that you can be a good Marine and a good American and still want our war in Iraq to stop.

Talk proudly about Madden of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, who took a petition, signed by more than 1,000 just like him, to Congress yesterday, who just by walking up the steps of the Cannon House Office Building did more than big Democrats such as Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are doing these days.

Clinton would rather be photographed with soldiers than do anything for them. The other day on "Face the Nation," Obama looked like he wanted to hide under the desk when Bob Schieffer asked him if he backed Sen. Edward Kennedy's bill that would require congressional approval to fund the troop increases that this President has planned. Obama started talking about a "phased withdrawal" and sounded like somebody trying to explain cricket.

One of the reasons Kennedy (D-Mass.) can do what he does at this stage of his career is because he has nothing to lose. Clinton and Obama are different. They are the headliners of the party in power now, but all they do is talk and talk but say nothing meaningful about Iraq. It tells you everything about how much both of them want to be President, no matter what kind of mess they would inherit in Baghdad.

This isn't about ideals with them as much as ambition. Maybe they can explain to the people on the ground now how important it is for them to find a safe place in this debate.

"I'd tell you that the Democrats are talking a good game, but they're not even doing that," Madden says. "Everybody in Congress has to understand something: If they continue to fund this war, it's not just the President who owns it. They own it, too."

The Appeal for Redress, as yesterday's document is officially called, was signed by active military members and National Guardsmen and reservists. There were 1,034 names on it yesterday when Madden and the others took it up the steps to the Cannon Terrace. And this was not partisan dissent that came from the President's political opponents. This came from soldiers brave enough to speak out, even at the possible cost of their careers, and makes them braver than the people who represent them.

Their Appeal for Redress ended this way: "The timing of the beginning of the war was a choice, and the timing of the ending will be a choice. If President Bush does not choose to end the war, then Congress must by cutting off funds."

At least Kennedy tries to do something. The best the rest of them can do is talk about some kind of nonbinding resolution. That ought to scare off Bush and Vice President Cheney.

It is as if Clinton and Obama in particular are terrified of being Swift-boated by the Republicans all over again, made out to be weaklings and cowards if they don't want to continue sending U.S. soldiers over to Iraq to die in a civil war the United Nations now says killed more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians in the last year alone. "This isn't us against the military," Madden says. "It's us against this policy."

Madden joined the Marines at 18 because, he says, he needed purpose in his life. He thought that in the last four years of his contract, he could get himself a college education. Now he is not so sure, even though he was told on his way into service for his country that he would be called back from inactive duty only for a "national emergency."

"They keep changing the rules," he says

So he puts his name on the Appeal for Redress. And then listens to Cheney, who goes on television Sunday and says that if we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, we "revalidate the strategy that Osama Bin Laden has been following from day one, that if you kill enough Americans, you can force them to quit,that we don't have the stomach forthe fight."

This is the same Cheney who has only ever picked up a gun in his life to shoot birds or lawyers.

"It's the same old stuff," Madden says. "If we're not blind in our loyalty to their beliefs, then Osama wins. But that doesn't work anymore, and the election should have told everybody that. The American people aren't idiots."

Just treated that way by this administration. On one hand, the President calls this the most important ideological battle of our time. Then, practically in the next breath, he says that this country's commitment in Iraq is not "open-ended." So even with the most important ideological battle of our time, he has the meter running.

Some soldiers, ones who have put themselves on the line in Iraq, spoke out against this lunacy yesterday. It is the best they can do for now. It is their elected officials who have to do better, starting with the Democratic front-runners, Clinton and Barack. They can start by saying they will vote against further funding of this war the first chance they get. You fund this war, you own it.