So, in hopes of initially uniting Democrats and then creating a new center of gravity in the House that might see a significant number of Republicans sign on to a "troops home" measure, Pelosi and two of her closest allies, Appropriations Committee chair David Obey, D-Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee charges with oversight of military spending, have set out to use the spending bill as a tool to reframe the debate about the war.
It is the sort of serious legislative move that gets points from government teachers but that leaves activists cold. And Pelosi has struggled to keep her balance in the face of fierce attacks from the White House and the Republican National Committee for trying to "micromanage" the war – GOP press releases refer to her deridingly as "General Pelosi" – and from progressives who say she is not doing enough to bring the troops home.
The essential objection to the legislation Pelosi, Obey and Murtha are pushing so aggressively is that it does not end the war. In fact, it funds the war for a year or more – perhaps even providing sufficient resources for the president to pursue his objectives until the end of his tenure in 2009.
Pelosi and her allies speak of establishing benchmarks and timelines designed to force the president's hand; "We are trying to end the authorization of the war if the Iraqis and the administration don't perform," says Obey, who got in trouble last week for referring to critics of the plan's caution as "idiot liberals."
Unfortunately for Obey and Pelosi, the "idiot liberals" have a point when they say that the Democratic leadership plan offers no assurance that U.S. troops will be extracted from Iraq in 2008.