It is one of the strengths of our political system that Congress frequently exhibits a healthy skepticism of presidential claims. That is the balance of powers in action. And, after eight years of George W. Bush’s particular brand of salesmanship when it comes to war fighting, Congress can be forgiven for being especially skeptical. But, there is also a point at which skepticism becomes unhealthy and we are beginning to see that in news accounts about how the President must sell the liberal base of his party on whatever strategy he is set to announce next Tuesday.
Re-read that last sentence. There are people who have already made up their mind, having no clue as yet what the president intends to announce, his plans for the mission’s future in Afghanistan, his rationale for those plans, or anything else that has come from his several weeks of deliberation on the subject. Already, they know they are opposed. This is seriously wrong-headed not least because it makes it look like the back-and-forth of the past few weeks really was little more than dithering, that everyone already knew what needed to be done or not done, that there was nothing new to be asked or answered.
But, the President is to be commended for what happened the last few weeks. Instead of simply siding with one group of advisors over against another, he kept them at the table to devise a strategy that addressed the concerns of all. Instead of simply accepting the reports of "experts," he questioned those reports with other reports from other experts, and, evidently, at one point, asked for a whole new set of reports reflecting more current data and the changing political situation on the ground. Those who oppose the President without hearing what he has to say after such a process unwittingly indicate that process doesn’t matter, that Obama’s deliberations are no better and no worse a means of achieving a decision than listening to George Bush’s gut.
I have no idea what should be done in Afghanistan – and neither does Dennis Kucinich. I am looking forward to hearing from the President what he wants to do and, even more importantly, why? What are the benchmarks for success or failure? What is the goal of the mission? &c.? At that point, liberals can agree or disagree, but shame on them for denouncing the President’s plans sight unseen.