Conservative columnist Robert Novak:
When President Bush called for a bipartisan "special advisory council" of congressional leaders on the war against terrorism in his State of the Union address, he had in his pocket a rude rejection from Democratic leaders. Thank you very much, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but no thank you.
Three days earlier, Reid and Pelosi wrote a letter to the president turning down his offer (which was contained in his Jan. 10 speech on Iraq) to establish a council consisting of Democratic chairmen and ranking Republican members of the relevant committees. "We believe that Congress already has bipartisan structures in place," they said, adding: "We look forward to working with you within existing structures."
Courtesy aside, it shows that the self-confident Democratic leadership is uninterested in being cut into potentially disastrous outcomes in Iraq. It wants to function as a coordinate branch of government, not as friendly colleagues in the spirit of bipartisanship. Pelosi and several Democratic committee chairmen are leaving for Iraq on Friday.
In his Jan. 10 speech, Bush called for a "new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror." That prompted the Pelosi-Reid letter of Jan. 19 rejecting the offer.
Bush made a mistake in attributing the idea to Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who as the Senate's only self-identified Independent Democrat is estranged from his colleagues who are unmodified Democrats. These former comrades are not charmed by the prospect of Lieberman pontificating as a member of the "working group" by virtue of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
But Lieberman was not the reason for the speaker and majority leader's rebuff. The Democratic leadership is beyond consultation on Iraq, as demonstrated by the selection of Sen. Jim Webb to deliver the party's response to the president Tuesday night. Webb, whose unexpected election in Virginia last year gave Democrats a Senate majority, is a hard-edged critic of the war not interested in bipartisanship. Discarding staff-written talking points, professional writer Webb declared: "The president took us into this war recklessly."
If there's one thing that's been made perfectly clear in the past six years it is that the Administration has no regard for Congress--even when it was run by its own party. Congress was not invited to "consult" in the lead up to the war, and wasn't invited to consult in the last two months, when the escalation "plan" was cooked up.
So, thanks for the invitation on January 10 after the decision to escalate the war was already made, to appear in a war "council" but no thanks.