Matt Yglesias' rap on Dick Gephardt for a while has been that his politics are too far right on foreign policy and too far left at home. I'd say he's got the first half right, and he makes that case pretty compellingly here: When President Bush put forward his demand for a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, several moderate Republican Senators, including Dick Lugar, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, initially balked. The president, they felt, simply hadn't laid the groundwork for an effective military campaign. They began working with Senate Democrats on constructing a compromise resolution that would contemplate the use of force while restricting the president's power to go to war without a U.N. resolution and broad international support. For a brief moment, it looked like a done deal. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced that Dick Gephardt, leader of the House Democrats, had cut a deal -- a total capitulation to the president's demands, in fact -- with the White House, undermining the negotiating power of Senate Democrats and GOP moderates alike. The result was not only the Iraq War as we know it, but to put many congressional Democrats, John Kerry included, in a rather untenable position. Either vote no and leave yourself open to the charge of thinking that the continued deterioration of the sanctions and inspections in Iraq could simply be ignored, or vote yes and take it as a matter of faith that the president would exercise this broad discretionary power wisely. Thus Kerry and others found themselves voting yes while attaching verbal caveats, rather than voting for a resolution that would have attached actual caveats, and the country's best hope for a rational Iraq policy was dashed.


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