Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Bush vetoes spending bill

As he had vowed, President Bush vetoed the supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war Tuesday evening, settling a score with the Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The posturing on both sides had been extravagant and, by any reckoning, this doughty president and this pesky Congress are now even.

But the American people have not had their satisfaction, and they are running out of patience with the political scorekeeping. President Bush says he will work with Congress to reach an accommodation that will keep the money flowing through the summer for the materiel that the troops need. Let us hope that he is serious and that the Democrats are serious, too, about reaching a compromise that does not rub the president’s face in defeat.

Mr. Bush finds any resolution that sets any sort of timetable for withdrawing all, or even any, of U.S. forces from Iraq to be an acknowledgement that the war and his entire foreign policy are failures.

It need not be that way and the Democrats should go out of their way to see that the next resolution does not try to send that message. It would help if Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and others piped down the rhetoric.

The president also needs to grasp an inescapable fact. Congress cannot pass a war appropriation now that does not somehow make the end of U.S. battle engagement in Iraq a certainty — at some date and on certain terms. Vague statements about hopeful timetables, all of which have passed unheeded for four years, will not pass muster again.

Mr. Bush’s surge may eventually tamp down the day-to-day violence in Baghdad and in an outlying province or two, and we pray for even better results than that. But there is no sum of results on Iraq’s killing streets foreseen by even the most optimistic warrior that would change the conclusion of the vast majority of Americans that the United States’ combat role must end. President Bush and his commanders say that the Iraq mission will take years, well past the end of his term, but the public does not have the will for that.

The death toll of American and British soldiers (who are beginning to stand down) as well as Iraqi soldiers and civilians has been rising since the surge began. Sunnis are battling Shiites, and Shiites are battling each other. Americans do not want their sons and daughters buffering them any longer.

Mr. Bush’s yearning for a peace-loving and democratic Iraq is as noble as ever. He has been ardent and persistent in making his case for a determined strategy to stabilize the gulf states with American power. But the president of the United States cannot for long conduct a foreign policy — or a domestic program either — that is decidedly at odds with the passionate beliefs of the people. George Bush personally can stand an even more precipitous decline in his already abysmal standing in the polls — a couple of predecessors have for a short time — but the country pays a dear price when the national will is flouted. The president should not ask it, and his political adversaries should not force him into that corner. They can work it out.