Playing on the Senate Floor Is a Dirty Business, Children
By a quirk of the calendar, yesterday's Senate vote to withdraw from Iraq fell on "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day." And so it happened that, in the middle of the tense war debate, Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) strolled through the press gallery with his young daughter. "Don't touch anything in here," he advised her. "It's very dirty."
Actually, Senator, the grime in the gallery was nothing compared with the mud being thrown on the Senate floor. There, Republicans were accusing Democrats of aiding the enemy and wishing painful deaths on thousands of their fellow citizens.
"When a newly revitalized al-Qaeda carries out a 9/11-scale attack, you will own that one," Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) told his good friends across the aisle.
Sen. Norman Coleman (R-Minn.) advised his Democratic colleagues that they were "handing al-Qaeda a victory that they will be able to use to strengthen their forces and then hurt and kill more Americans."
Will somebody please cover the children's ears?
The "Vote Democratic and Die" scourge, though common in an election year, is undergoing a rare off-season outbreak. Earlier in the week, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani declared that more Americans would die if a Democrat were in charge. The White House has begun accusing the Democrats of fixing a "date for surrender," and the hyperbole has inevitably spread to Congress. "This is the worst case of capitulation to appeasement since Neville Chamberlain spoke the words 'Peace in our time,' " Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said during yesterday's debate.
Democrats were rather more calm, for the obvious reason that the public is solidly behind them. The latest evidence of that came in a poll by the Pew Research Center yesterday, which found that Americans, by 59 percent to 33 percent, favor a timetable for leaving Iraq.
In fact, Democrats decided that, even though both chambers of Congress have passed the war spending bill with the withdrawal timeline, they wouldn't deliver the legislation to the White House for an anticipated veto until Tuesday -- the fourth anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
This purposeful delay sent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the TV cameras to protest.
"This conference report should be sent down to the president today, by the close of business today," he demanded. "Not tomorrow, not next Monday, but today."
Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), chairman of the Republican caucus, stepped to the microphones next. "I would join with my Republican colleagues here in urging the Democrats to very quickly get this veto behind us," he recommended.
Democrats earnestly explained how they couldn't possibly move so quickly. The bill had to be printed on parchment, then signed by the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate -- actions that would almost certainly take until Tuesday, particularly with all the "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" observances.