BY MARY KATHARINE HAM
Please excuse the little formatting problem above. This really is MKH posting; we’ll get that worked out ASAP.
I just got back from the first-ever Senate Blogorama at the Capitol. Justin at Right Side Redux has video and the names of all the participants.
I’ll cover the highlights/lowlights for you on the Iraq amendment. I noticed that the only Senators who admitted their phones were ringing off the hook about it were the ones who voted against both amendments, like Saxby Chambliss:
“I voted against both of them…I thought the second amendment was a little less mischievous, but it still sent a bad message.”
“I will say that my phones have been kind of ringing off the wall on that issue. That’s what people have been calling about.”
I asked him about his views on a do-over, New-Coke amendment, as Hugh has suggested. He said he didn’t think that would happen. Instead, he said, the right response is for Republicans to continue the push-back on the “Bush lied” lie. Unfortunately for all of us, that push-back would be a whole lot more effective if it came from a bunch of guys who hadn’t just passed this amendment.
From Sen. Brownback:
“I worried about that vote because I didn’t want to send that signal… We did not capitulate to the Democrat position.”
He went on to say that our enemies in Iraq and in the War on Terror in general understand that the place to attack an American war effort is at the point of public opinion. So, he understands the power of the bad message. Why vote for it again?
Sen. Frist‘s answer to the same question:
“Republicans in this body are 100% behind the President as Commander in Chief… We are committed not to have a cut-and-run approach, no matter what the polls say.”
He then spoke about how bad the Democrat amendment was– that it was “crafted as a cut-and-run approach,” and that it was “absolutely wrong, sends the wrong message to Al Qaeda.”
If I understood him correctly, he said the Republican amendment was crafted as a contrast to the Democrats’ amendment. When they were “side-by-side,” he said, one was clearly a cut-and-run amendment and the other was not. As a result of the Republican amendment, “actual reporting,” on the war in Iraq, “will be no different.”
I asked, since it made no changes in current policy and reporting, why even have an amendment? Regular Americans can’t be blamed for thinking this represents some sort of change in policy. Was it legislative necessity?
“It’s sense of the Senate; it really has no legislative import.”
All right, if you have to explain why the Republican amendment is good by using a phrase most people would have to look up in the C-SPAN Congressional Glossary, then I’d say you’ve already lost the message battle.
The bottom line on the Iraq amendment is that, subtle differences and the “sense of the Senate” notwithstanding, every Dem in the Senate is now saying “timetable for Iraq” in every soundbite, and Senate Republicans have given that phrase much more weight than it had before.
I’ll get to more pleasant subjects in other posts, but the whole event was very nice. There was WiFi, the set-up was fairly informal and intimate, the Senators answered quite a few questions, and we got to blog under chandeliers, which makes me feel like a very posh blogger, indeed. I also got to meet some of my long-time reads– Orin Kerr and Ed Driscoll. Cool.