What is up with Carl Levin?

I was initially really excited that Carl Levin would be in a position of power in the Senate, but after reading his statements over the past few months, it's become clear that he doesn't get it on Iraq.  Here he is on Meet the Press today.

Things have changed in Iraq. We don't believe that it's going to be possible to remove all of our troops from Iraq because there's going to be a limited purpose that they're going to need to serve, including a training, continued training of the Iraqi army, support for logistics in the Iraqi army, a counterterrorism purpose or a mission because there's about 5,000 al-Qaida in Iraq.

There are two problems here.  First of all, he ratifies the right-wing talking point that we're in Iraq because of Al Qaeda.    More significantly, by saying that Bush needs to keep troops in Iraq, he's giving Bush carte blanche.  There is no pony plan here.  Bush is leading our forces, and he will until 2009.

Surely, though, Levin gets this, and would specific limits on troop withdrawals.  Well, not exactly.  This is a response to a question where Russert asks how many troops should be taken out by next March.

I don't want to put a specific number on it because that really should be left to the commanders who decide how many would be needed to carry out those limited functions.

So Levin wants to make sure that Bush can keep as many troops in Iraq as is necessary to carry out limited functions, a clear delegation of power to Bush.  But it's even worse - Levin doesn't want to use the only Congressional leverage that actually exists - funding.  And he doesn't want to use it for disgraceful reasons.

Most of us do not want to cut funding for our troops for two reasons. One is it's wrong. Our troops deserve our support as long as they're there, and we're not going to repeat the mistake of Vietnam where we took out on the troops our differences over policies with the administration.

Democrats need to stop equating funding the war with supporting the troops.  By arguing that Democrats cannot morally use the power of the purse, Levin is expressing a preference to sending our troops into Iraq underequipped and led by an entirely politicized and incompetent civilian leadership.

This strategy needs to change.  Senator Levin is a smart man, but his framing is playing to the right.

UPDATE: Kagro X makes a related point.

UPDATE: Levin isn't wrong that Al Qaeda is in Iraq, but Bush will not use our military forces in Iraq to go after Al Qaeda no matter how much Levin asks.

Tags: Carl Levin, Escalation, Iraq (all tags)

Comments

43 Comments

Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

The reason why he said that one of the reasons that we need to maintain troops in Iraq because of the presence of al Qaeda is because there actually is a presence of al Qaeda.  And al Qaeda will do whatever they can to hurt Iraq and its people.

Now, the reason that al Qaeda is in Iraq is because we invaded the place in first place.  But we, because of Bush's policy, caused that.

And the reason that he feels that the commanders should have the say as to troop levels is because commanders in the field know best.

And regarding funding the troops?  It's the wrong agrument.  Cut off funding and watch public outrage.  

Democrats should understand that the surge is going to happen...no matter what...and then demand Bush talk about the strategy that follows.  Now is the time for the Dems to frame the debate for beyond the surge.

by jptrenn 2007-02-25 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

The strategy that follows is Bush leaving office in 2009.  It's a pony plan, once again.

by Matt Stoller 2007-02-25 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Bingo.

by jptrenn 2007-02-25 04:20PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Matt, this is why I think the best plan to get behind is Murtha's. There's a small debate/thread over this  at Raising Kaine (currently on the front page), in regards to today's front page article in the WaPo talking about how Murtha's plan has derailed due to his announcing it on a MoveOn website/chat. http://raisingkaine.com/showDiary.do?dia ryId=7293

The fact is, the clowns in the Senate are going to make it difficult to meaningfully de-escalate this war. The end result has to be a bill that can either get the President's signature or get 67 Senate votes and 290 Reps -- I don't think any override is possible with the current legislative compositions.

The Murtha plan sits on very firm and fertile Constitutional ground -- the Congress has complete Article I Section 8 power to not only appropriate funds, but also to regulate the armed forces and the militia. If the Democrats can craft a bill that funds the troops on the ground for the next 12 months, but regulates the conditions by which rotations and re-enlistments occur, and fully funds (and increasing funding for) care for wounded and sick veterans, it would legally bind the ability of the President to escalate this disaster of a war and would be a complete political victory. Make him choose between no funds for his war, or funds tied to conditions that move us towards withdrawal.

Frankly, I think this bill should also include language that explicitly denies him the ability to conduct actions in Iran or funds to plan for such activities.

But in order to move the onus onto Bush, Murtha's gambit is the best plan. Maybe MyDD can be the fulcrum that puts the pressure on the Congress to get this bill passed.

by Ron 2007-02-25 05:03PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Yes, Matt, I agree; it's all games.  Obama's bill, the non-binding resolutions.  Levin's bs.  Too many Democrats give up ground to Bush by accepting Bush's premises.  They need to be hot upside the head with a two by four to get their attention.  Over and over, they do the same thing and undercut real opposition to the war.  If they keep it up, 2008 will be like 1968.  Denver will be Chicago.  That is bad for the whole movement.

I am so tired of triangulation, of Democrats selling out, whether by it's Clintonian name or its new name-- Obama's "new politics."  It sounds as if Levin really needs the Occupation Project in his life to get his attention.

by littafi 2007-02-26 03:12AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Wake up Stoller, Al Qaeda IS in Iraq. That doesnt mean we have to commit all the troops we have there now, but fighting in Anbar Provence is necessary. Thats the enemy, we've all criticized Bush for dropping the ball on that, so we cant now protest THAT SPECIFIC MISSION (not the mission of "stabilizing" Iraq though, they are different).

by AC4508 2007-02-25 08:46PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Afghanistan is the problem not Iraq.  Al Qaeda's think tanks and operations are there.  Iraq is only their training ground!

by SandThroughTheEyeGlass 2007-02-26 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Almost of all his points are defensible, but they're also going to lose the argument as the horse-trading gets us precisely nothing out of it.

And the 'supporting the troops' canard just shouldn't be used. Call it 'supporting the death-toll' or something similar instead.

by Englishlefty 2007-02-26 12:51AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Why was my post deleted?

by jrob 2007-02-25 04:22PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Here is my post without the insults.

Here is the gist of post again.  It was deleted the first time.

I finally had to create an account to comment.

While I agree with most of the post, selective editing doesn't help.

Levin also said, "SEN. LEVIN: It's now a haven for terrorists. It wasn't before we attacked Iraq, but it now is. The question is how do we try to turn that around. And I would leave a limited force, as I indicated. And I think our resolution will do this for a number of purposes, including a limited anti- or counterterrorism purpose. There are now 5,000 to 6,000 al-Qaida people in Iraq. There weren't any, or there were just a handful, prior to the war. Now they're there because of the policies of this administration. And we believe we should leave a limited force for a number of limited purposes, that being one of them."

by jrob 2007-02-25 04:26PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Thank you for the edits, and I appreciate and respect your point.

The problem is that assuming that Bush will use our forces in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq is not reasonable.  Levin has good intentions, but he is still in 'pony plan' land where Bush won't fuck everything up that he touches.

by Matt Stoller 2007-02-25 04:28PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Levin is old and has lost the fire in his belly.  He has been an insider too long.  I wish it wasn't true, but it is.

by dkmich 2007-02-25 05:38PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

One simple question: 'Who funds Levin's campaign coffers?'

Oh...looky! 10% of his funding comes from pro-Israel PACS and our 'defense' industry. The only other sector that give him this much are the trial lawyers everybody else is at 1-2%.

Gee...

What a frikin' surprise.

Carl Levin proud member of The Money Party.

Proud advocate for Endless War.
.

by Pericles 2007-02-25 04:41PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Is that why he was one of the few Senators with the guts to vote AGAINST the war resolution in the first place?  Disagree with the strategy he's advocating if you want -- that's fair -- but he's not pro-war and tarring him like you just did is ridiculous.  He's a decent man who was right when far too many democrats were wrong.

by HSTruman 2007-02-25 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

So what is wrong with Obama's Iraq De-escalation Act of 2007.  It addresses all of these issues but mandates a timed withdrawal with various checkpoints that must be met by Iraq and other circumstantial variables.  It uses ISG recommendations and Bush administration promises as threshold triggers to suspend withdrawal if they are met, which is unlikely, to create justifiable support among Republicans, especially in the Senate.

It commences in May 2007 ends in March 2008, gives operational responsibility to the force commanders and leaves counter-terrorism forces in the theatre to deal with the al-Qaeda threat created by our misadventure as well as an over-the-horizon presence in the Persian Gulf to deal with contingent threats as they occur.

It has two co-sponsors in the senate and the sister bill, HR.787 sponsored by Mike Thompson, has twenty-seven co-sponsors in the House including Patrick Murphy, our newly elected Iraq veteran, among others.  What are we waiting for?

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-25 04:46PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?


  It's wrong because it, well, de-escalates the war.

 Our Senators in both parties (with a few exceptions, but not nearly enough of them) don't really want to do that. This war's been a big party for them.

 

by Master Jack 2007-02-26 02:43AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Well, the party is over.  There has been an almost embarrassing amount of dithering on the subject.  It is hard to shame the Republican Senators into taking a non-compromising position on the vote when there is equal squeamishness among some Democrats.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-26 02:50AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Obama's plan has a big loophole-- Bush must certify.  Congress can override a failure to certify, but the Republicans can filibuster with 40 votes.  It's a bill for show -- for his campaign.  Why did Obama need this loophole?

Obama and Clinton voted against the Kerry/Feingold/Boxer bill in summer 2006 to withdraw by summer 2007 becuase he thought it was irresponsible.  It was "irresponsible" for Obama  to repeat the Republican talking point as he did in 2006.  It harmed the antiwar movement.  

Obama is no champion of the antiwar movement.  Nice speech in 2002, but, like Levin, his rhetoric supports rationales for continuing death in Iraq.

by littafi 2007-02-26 03:21AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

My reading of this provision is the POTUS can certify only if the other fourteen conditions are met.  These conditions include just about  everything which is currently going wrong in Iraq and are based on unfulfilled promises or benchmarks which the Republicans have already endorsed.  I think it is actually quite clever.  How could they object to those conditions yet how can they be met?  It exposes the fallacy of the Republican position and is calculated to actual get 60 votes or more.  I hope this is not a 'showpiece' and feel it has sufficient detail and is well thought out enough to actual be a workable solution.  

As for the 2006 bill I thought it was problematic myself, in timing, tactics and content, and I do not fault Obama or Clinton for opposing it.  I do, however, believe your assertion that Obama is not a champion of the anti-war movement, and more specifically that he supports rationales for continuing death in Iraq, unfounded and unfair to the candidate and the man.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-26 12:57PM | 0 recs
Rule: Never accept an invitation to go crazy...
The funding dilemma [cut $ = support troops] is a well laid trap. Bush's immediate response to the House Resolution against to Surge was to say "support the troops by funding the surge." The connection between funding and surging is a false dichotome. Levin has fallen into one side if the trap [support troops]. Others are falling into the other side [cut funds]. Taking either side is a mistake.

The correct response is to point out the insanity of the Administration's created double bind. By rejecting the Iraq Study Group's exit strategy, Bush turns this into a lose-lose situation. I actually wonder if this is Bush's exit strategy - force Congress to cut him off, then disavow any responsibility for the inevitable chaos. What is the correct response to an impossible situation?

  • Confront it's creator
  • Do nothing
In this case, neither fund nor not fund. Spend endless hours in Committee Debates on the impossibile dilemma and flood the House floor with rhetoric about Bush's callous irresponsibility in refusing to propose an exit strategy for our troops - and the shameful redeployment of soldiers who have way more than served their time. Suggest that if he wants a Surge, he should reinstitute the draft. Harp on the Walter Reed Scandal. Do anything that points out that this is just a political maneuver that has nothing to do with this war or supporting our troops.

This ball's in his court...

by jnardo 2007-02-25 05:19PM | 0 recs
Nothing much.
   I'm really disappointed in the new Senate.  We claw our way back to a majority, and now Reid and Levin are tip-toeing toward 2008.  Levin voted against authorization, so why is he being so timid?  I'm looking to the House for Democratic innovation.  It's clear to me that the senate only seems able to react to new proposals.  And frankly none of our new Democratic senators have been very vocal about withdrawal.  Webb, McCaskill, Cardin, Whitehouse, Casey, Tester, Menendez, Klobuchar, and Brown - I was hoping our new class would be unified and outspoken, but they are not.  
    I love the Murtha plan.  It's our only chance to end the war before Bush leaves office.
by cilerder86 2007-02-25 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?
Pericles (above) is correct.
Either Levin truly believes, as a  minority of militant Israelis believe, that the US should remain in Iraq indefinately, or he is beholden to Israeli interests because of the huge amount he accepts from their US political arm, AIPAC.
Either way it's bad for US interests and good for Israeli interests.
by sammy1 2007-02-25 05:31PM | 0 recs
AIPAC.

     AIPAC doesn't control the universe.  If Levin were truly under AIPAC's control, then he would have voted for the authorization bill in 2003.  But Levin didn't vote for it.  The Senate Democrats seem to think that arguments over the launch of an illegal war and the declaration that acts of Congress will be defied, are just parts of everyday politics.  When will they understand that there is difference between Bush calling for another tax cut, and him claiming the right to defy Congress at will?  Bush is trying to declare war on Congress, and the Democrats answer back with boilerplate rhetoric.

by cilerder86 2007-02-25 05:41PM | 0 recs
It's A Vast Poker Game

Bottom Line: Blood For Oil.

We would have easily been able to buy oil from Saddam, keep him from getting WMD, and even force him to treat his subjects semi-reasonably. We chose to do none of these things. In fact, Bush did something vastly worse than merely invade Iraq. He gave Fallujah the Dresden treatment, but with white phosphorus. He tortured Iraqis just like Saddam at Abu Ghraib. By doing these things, he guaranteed that we would never be able to bargain with Iraq for Oil again. What this means is that, if we want any of their Oil, we must take it by force. By doing these things, he made it almost impossible to leave the place.

The endless driving SAND gets into watches and radios and tanks and jet engines, etc. So these must constantly be replaced. Forever. We are totally screwed.

I would decline any further funding anyway. The US people know the score. And I keep parroting, form 100 committees and make every white house traitor, including the Chimp, attend 10 meetings each day. Just do it. Punish the bastards.

by blues 2007-02-25 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

I've never known Senator Levin to be anything but a man of good faith, and the sort of person who consistently puts thoughtful policy over raw partisanship.

That doesn't preclude wondering, as Matt does, what his thinking could possibly be in this case.  It doesn't preclude thinking that he's going in the wrong direction.

But this is a man who voted against the war, and has a decades-long record as a strong liberal in Congress.  The people who insist on screaming "AIPAC AIPAC AIPAC" really make me sick.  Not everyone who disagrees with the truths you personally find self-evident is evil or corrupt.

by Steve M 2007-02-25 06:22PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Nonetheless, he is coming up for re-election, and his second biggest fundraisers are the pro-Israel lobby.  I was a big supporter of Levin's when he spoke out against the war in 2002!  He knew more than anyone the quaqmire we would be getting ourselves into.

HOWEVER, things have changed we are now in 2007 = Israel and the US have stirred up a hornet's nest in the ME and like it or not, Israel and AIPAC DO NOT want troops leaving at this time.  For me, and the use of my taxpayers money = I would start a six month withdrawal plan and get our troops out of a civil war - leaving NOW, as the Iraqi President (noticed taken sick like sharon?), and Prime Minister wants us to.  This leaving Israel to compromise with its neighbors like it should have many many years ago.

Also, with all of these resolutions flying around, we need to look at the money -- is the money still flowing for those PERMANENT bases, and which one of our senators and rep are not talking about those?

by SandThroughTheEyeGlass 2007-02-26 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

P R I M A R Y   C H A L L E N G E

I don't give a fuck how great you've been in the past.  If you're a Democrat and you're not pulling your weight to end this war, I want you stupid ass jettisoned from the position you occupy.

Levin has become completely useless (and not just on the war) and it is time for him to get the fuck out of the way, or be KICKED out of the way.  We don't need any more Liebermans on this war.  Bye, Carl.  Time to take the AIPAC lobbying position and get the fuck out of the Senate.

by annehaygood 2007-02-25 09:08PM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

This war is not going to end as quickly as either of us would like, and the brutal truth of it is that the ATTEMPT to end it immediately, if pursued, will cost us the ability to make any changes, because we will end up losing in 2008.  Immediate withdrawal/funding cutoff still polls badly; we can't sell it until the general public is ready to buy.    

Without Lieberman, the Senate is 50-50.  It is simply not reasonable to expect much of Democrats in that chamber except careful maneuvering and positioning for expansion of the majority in '08.  Right now, it is the best we can do.  

by CLLGADEM 2007-02-26 01:02AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

The annehaygood comment was a tad roguish, but understandable considering the vast devastation this farce of an occupation has wrought on the people of the US. So I don't think it deserves a "1".

by blues 2007-02-26 03:30AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

I wouldn't downrate it, but it's the sort of comment that makes me embarassed for the blogosphere.

by Steve M 2007-02-26 05:54AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Hardly anything embarrasses me! I have almost no shame! (I'm kind of a rogue, y'know.)

by blues 2007-02-27 06:12PM | 0 recs
We have a messaging problem

  Once again, a Democrat tumbles into right-wing frames when discussing Iraq. And it's not even a red-stater who might have SOME excuse.

  I'm at the point where I believe that the Democrats' problems with messaging and framing are 100% voluntary and intentional. We've KNOWN for about a decade that the Republican message machine steamrolls ours, we've had dozens of pundits and analysts repeatedly point this out to our leadership with increasing urgency, but our next sign of progress on this front will be our first one.

  I mean, how HARD can it be to market the idea that "we shouldn't send troops to Iraq without the proper equipment"? How can that possibly be a tough sell, even in a red state? ESPECIALLY with the public increasingly fed up with this stupid war?

  The Democrats' failures to meaningfully stop the Iraq madness will destroy them in the 2008 elections if they don't get their act together. But maybe that's the idea. I get the feeling that they don't like being in the majority -- it involves actual work.

 

by Master Jack 2007-02-26 02:36AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

An election is what's up...

Carl faces a re-election in 2008 and considering the tactics of "Do Nothing" Debbie Stabenow and the election results, I am sure the Washington insiders who are running his campaign are advising him to adopt the same strategy.

As for a primary challenge, the bench in Michigan is not very deep and the Party is controlled by several different families who would never do any such thing.

by Nazgul35 2007-02-26 03:09AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Which families?

by SandThroughTheEyeGlass 2007-02-26 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

why don't you threaten to "primary" him?

by timlhowe 2007-02-26 03:38AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Excuse me, I just got some message `warning' me.  It said that I couldnt post anymore unless I acknowledged its instruction to "knock it off".  Please explain.  I wrote wit the opinion that it is ridiculous, wasteful and unwise to continually threaten to "primary' our own hard fought congressional allies. Is it the policy of this site to not breach any criticism.  My goodness, some of the harshest words Ive ever read have been geared towards those unpopular with some on this site and what is this a goose and the gander situation.  My, my - shades of Ari Fleisher - "should I watch what I say?  Potential web sensor I ask you this, "how do you spell - freedom of speech?"  Amazing...

by timlhowe 2007-02-26 03:59AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

I wrote wit the opinion that it is ridiculous, wasteful and unwise to continually threaten to "primary' our own hard fought congressional allies.

I didn't write that we should primary him, I wrote that he's a good man.  I warned you because you are distracting the conversation with antisocial flaming meant to disrupt the thread.

by Matt Stoller 2007-02-26 07:35AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

You "warned" me?  My goodness.  I point out that your logic in your criticism of Senator Levin is quite the same as the reasoning behind your threats to "primary" Democrats that you posted on Friday.  A misunderstanding of the process involved in getting a bill to pass.

I am new to posting on this (or other) sites.  Is it your practice to "warn' or censor those that disagree with your beliefs or "distract" from your arguments.

I do apologize for words that carry anger.  But when you (in my view) unfairly denounce allies that we need to prevail in our struggles I do get resentful.  

I believe that sites like this can help the democratic cause. But I worry that there seems to be a autocratic voice coming from what purports to be a Democratic conversation.

If you are new leaders, lead.  Don't demand.  Don't distort.  (ex. flipping and ignoring what Peter Daou said last week into a new anti-Hillary script) Don't discourage dissent.  If you do, how is this effort anything other than a mirror of the `ditto-ing' process of the Limbaughs of the world.

by timlhowe 2007-02-26 09:17AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

hopefully better than I spelled censor!

by timlhowe 2007-02-26 05:59AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Wow. Not only did Levin vote against authorization, but then he said, if we do want to go in, we can't go in without the support of the UN and most importantly Muslim nations. Once we did go into Iraq, Levin said, we must reconstitute the Iraqi military. It was Levin who tirelessly (with fire in his belly) led the investigation into the pre-war intelligence of the administration.

Call me crazy, but I used to work for him, and Levin has shown wisdom in the past and even if I may differ in some of his opinions, I most certainly don't question his motives.

He makes a strong point about why pushing a bill to defund the war is strategically wrong. Strategy for change differs greatly in the Senate then it does in the House.

by andersej 2007-02-26 06:36AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Here, here!  What Stoller seems to not understand is that McConnell is gonna require 60 votes on this and every other iniative.  We cant win with bills that have no chance to make that hurdle.  Plus, the press will announce any defeat as a win for Bush.

by timlhowe 2007-02-26 06:44AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

Is that how it's been going so far?  Doesn't seem to me that Bush is gaining any popularity at all from "winning" these votes.

The public already knows what it wants.  The more votes that get held, the more it becomes clear who is on the side of the public and who isn't.  This can only serve to build momentum and increase the pressure on the other side.

by Steve M 2007-02-26 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: What is up with Carl Levin?

pressure can only be bult if we win one of these votes.  The present hurdle is 60.  Then it gets even higher when Bush vetos that action.  Legislation can not be passed just because we wish it so.

by timlhowe 2007-02-26 08:59AM | 0 recs

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