Congress just passed its most aggressive challenge yet to the Iraq War and the way President Bush has run it. Attached to the bill that pays for the war are provisions that limit what the President can do. For example, the bill says the President can't extend troops beyond a one year deployment. He can't send them into Iraq without certifying in writing that they are fully combat ready (trained, rested and equipped). And the bill calls for troops to begin withdrawing as early as July but no later than October. When President Bush strikes it down with a veto, it will be the second of his presidency. There aren't enough votes in Congress to reject the President's veto. So he wins.
Or does he?
Veto or not, the bill and the debate over what it seeks to do have already left their mark. Democrats have known all along the President wouldn't go along with timetables and deadlines...with the legislative branch attempting to, in his view, run the war from 8,000 miles away. What Democrats really wanted was a public debate. To get their position aired on places like the Evening News. They got it.
That public debate -- an extension of one that's been going on for some time -- has put pressure on the President, Republicans in Congress and the war commanders. They acknowledge it's helped push them in a different direction than they otherwise might have gone. President Bush has gone from full force support for the original strategies in Iraq, to admitting they didn't appear to be working as intended, to pledging a shift in tactics. That change didn't happen overnight, but if you compare where the Bush administration was two years ago to where it is today, there's a dramatic difference in attitude.
At the moment, it's unlikely Congress can force an end to the Iraq war on a certain date. But even with a Presidential veto of that idea, they just may have been successful applying pressure that will help it draw to a close sooner. We'd all like to think that will save American lives while leaving Iraq well-positioned to face its future. But nobody knows for sure whether that will be the case.