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Cities Show All Politics Is Local by Weighing In on Iraq

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By Peter Slevin and Chris Cillizza
Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Chicago City Council may not have much say in when U.S. troops come home from Iraq. But that does not mean it has nothing to say.

The city is one of 67 around the country that have passed resolutions calling for U.S. withdrawal, in hopes that they can help start a groundswell that will force the hand of the Bush administration and Congress.

Others include Chapel Hill., N.C.; Gary, Ind.; dozens of towns in Vermont; and, perhaps no surprise, such famously liberal municipalities as Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass. The resolutions typically call on the U.S. government "to commence an orderly and rapid withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq," while also shipping nonmilitary aid "necessary for the security of Iraq's citizens and for the rebuilding of Iraq."

The efforts are being pushed by the D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, which sponsored the prewar "Cities for Peace" campaign that helped rally 165 cities to oppose the 2003 invasion. Director John Cavanagh, pointing to polls that show growing public frustration with the Iraq war, said that "we're at a fascinating tipping point."

"The Iraq story has become much more central than any of us would have predicted in defining how the people in power govern and what their values are," Cavanagh said. "I can imagine a majority within a year to 18 months that would vote to cut off the money for the war. That is a goal. There are different ways to end the war, but that's the one that feels clearest."

How far the effort goes remains to be seen. Cavanagh is the first to concede that cities alone cannot make foreign policy.

The Chicago resolution, passed in September, took note of the death toll, as well as the strain on U.S. military, National Guard and Reserve units. It cites the war's cost -- upward of $200 million -- and argues that Chicago's portion could have paid for Head Start for 238,056 children for one year or 31,147 public school teachers for a year. It also charges that the treatment of prisoners has inflamed anti-American passions and increased the terrorist threat to U.S. citizens.

After the Sacramento City Council voted 8 to 1 for a "rapid and comprehensive" withdrawal on Nov. 1, members received hundreds of threatening e-mails saying things such as "You should be hanged" and "Hope your children are beheaded." The e-mails mostly came from out of state.

Lawmakers Guilty by Association?

Democrats are hoping turnabout is fair play when it comes to congressional Republicans' close working relationship with President Bush.

After two consecutive election cycles of watching GOP candidates fall all over themselves to appear in campaign ads or at fundraisers with a president riding high in national polls, Democrats seem poised to turn the tables by using Republicans' record of support for the Bush agenda against them come next year.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) -- the heads of the Democratic Senate and House campaign arms, respectively -- released a study last week showing that since Bush took office in 2001, Senate Republicans have backed him 92 percent of the time compared with a 77 percent level of support during the four years of George H.W. Bush's presidency. In the House, Republicans have stood with the younger Bush on 84 percent of votes; his father enjoyed a support rate of less than 70 percent during his tenure.

"Republicans in Congress are just as culpable as the president" for the current state of domestic and foreign affairs, Schumer said.

In the recent New Jersey governor's race, Democrat Jon S. Corzine won after running ads that noted Republican Doug Forrester was supported by George W. Bush, and Democrats suggest they are eager to repeat the formula.

Republicans, meanwhile, maintain that the 2006 elections will not be decided by whether people like Bush but rather by whether they like their own member of Congress.

Reaching a Select Few Las Vegas Voters

For those politically minded Las Vegas residents rolling out of bed this morning and tuning in to the weekly Sunday chatfests (and that group must surely number in the dozens), the Republican National Committee is sponsoring a 60-second ad taking Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to task for alleged hypocrisy on Iraq.

The ad, which will run on the four local network affiliates during the Sunday talk shows, is more of a thumbed nose than an authentic punch. The latest ad buy totals a minuscule $5,000. It uses comments Reid made in 2002 in which he said Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein "has thumbed his nose at the world community," adding: "I think that the president's approaching this in the right fashion." It ends by urging viewers to call Reid. "Tell him to stop playing partisan politics and stand behind our troops."

Reid spokeswoman Tessa Hafen dismissed the spot as nothing more than the latest incarnation of the "Rove-Cheney attack machine."

The spot's significance is that it shows the GOP is determined to demonize Reid in his home state -- the same blueprint used by Republicans last year in South Dakota to unseat then-Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle. Earlier this year, the RNC released a lengthy research document detailing Reid statements that the GOP says are out of step with his Nevada constituents.

Reid seems unbowed by the efforts thus far, and in fact his travel schedule seems to be encouraging Republicans to bring it on.

Over the next few months, he will visit a number of bright-red states to preach the Democratic message. In December, Reid will make stops in Alabama (which favored Bush by 26 percent in 2004) and Utah (plus 46 percent for Bush), while January will find him in Idaho (plus 38) and Nebraska (plus 33).

Quotable

"You'll have a parent or two here, as you know, whose tragic grief from the tragic loss of a loved one, of a child, causes their mental thinking to be a little destabilized. That's understandable."

-- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) at a news conference Thursday, discussing parents of slain soldiers who turned antiwar.

Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com. The Fix, his online political column, appears daily athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/thefix.


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