March 31, 2007

Stupid Chess

In his radio address today, President Bush repeated his promise to veto any bill providing additional funding for the Iraq war if it includes a timetable for withdrawal. Both the House and Senate have passed such bills, and it seems likely, though not certain, that any final bill will contain some form of timetable.

Congress should not be intimidated by Bush’s bluster. What can the President do? Yes, he can veto the appropriation bill, but there is a problem. Eventually, he needs the money to prosecute the war, and only Congress can give it too him. It doesn’t matter if, as the administration contends, the Congress cannot override a presidential veto. If the President vetoes the bill and Congress fails to override it, it is the stubbornness of the President that will be responsible for the nation’s inability to “support the troops.”

World-class chess players look many moves ahead. If it is clear that all possible moves lead to their defeat, they resign. The current rhetorical skirmishes between the Congress and the President are aimed at determining just what each side is willing to do. If the Democrats can craft a final bill that will pass both houses, and if they are willing to resist pressure to pass a second post-veto bill without a timetable, they will have maneuvered themselves into a winning position on the chessboard.

Of course, Bush is too stubborn to resign. He will veto the bill, gloat over the sustaining of his veto, and insist that a new bill be sent to him without a timetable. At that point, Congress should simply do nothing. Eventually, the military will need more money, and the American people, who want to end this insane war, will insist that the President swallow his pride and accept what he has insisted is unacceptable. The bill that the President will have to sign at the end of this process will be less to his liking than the one he will have vetoed.

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