The US Senate Monday passed a mammoth 648 billion dollar defense policy bill, shorn of attempts by disappointed anti-war Democrats to dictate President George W. Bush's Iraq strategy.
The bill included around 128 billion dollars for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.
The legislation passed by 92 votes to three after Democrats lost several attempts to dictate US troop levels in Iraq.
Nobody can dispute that Barack Obama opposed the Iraq war from the start and, with striking prescience, predicted U.S. troops would be mired in a costly conflict that fanned "the flames of the Middle East."
But nobody should accept at face value the Illinois senator's claim that he was a "courageous leader" who opposed the war at great political risk.
The truth is that while Obama showed foreign policy savvy and an ability to keenly analyze both sides of an issue in his October 2002 warnings on Iraq, the political upside of his position rivaled any risk.
Interest on Capitol Hill is growing to create a government-run "Do Not Mail" list to fight back against the mountains of junk mail clogging Americans' mailboxes.
Across the country, at least 15 states are currently considering no-mail lists that are loosely based on the wildly popular Do Not Call list that gave us back our dinner hours free from telemarketers. Now some in Congress are mulling a federal junk-mail registry, as well.
It is gallows humor time for Republicans in Congress, where one lawmaker jokes that "there's talk about us going the way of the Whigs," the 19th century political party long extinct.
"That's not going to happen," Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., hastens to add, although a little more than a year before the 2008 election, the major leading political indicators still point downward for a party abruptly turned out of power in 2006.
Fundraising for Republican campaign organizations lags. That is strikingly so in the House, where the party committee spent more than it raised in each of the past two months, reported only $1.6 million in the bank at the end of August and a debt of nearly $4 million.
The drawdown of troops in Iraq without leaving the country and the region in absolute chaos needs one elusive ingredient to succeed -- bipartisanship. Without some political detente between Republicans and Democrats and the White House and Congress, the insurgents, terrorists and warring political factions will continue to be emboldened.
Senate Democrats have lost perhaps their last best chance of the year to enact meaningful opposition to the Iraq war.
A bill that would have effectively forced the Bush administration to begin drawing down the troop levels failed in its second try this year, falling four votes short of the 60 necessary to shut off debate.
Now that recession-warning lights have begun to blink, Democrats should give tax hikes a rest.
As tax-happy Democrats might have noticed, the stock market resembles a kindergartner on a swing set: half-giddy, half-scared and hyperactive. Meanwhile, payrolls sagged by 4,000 positions last month. Not since August 2003 has America created no new jobs. Fifty-two economists in Sept. 13's Wall Street Journal offered a 36 percent average probability of recession by next September.
The Senate Thursday crushed a latest, and largely symbolic attempt by anti-war Democrats to cut off funding for most Iraqi combat operations by next June.
Only 28 Senators, all Democrats, including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama backed the measure, which fell 32 votes short of the 60 vote supermajority it needed to pass.
The bill, co-sponsored by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senator Russ Feingold, would have allowed funding only for a strictly limited US mission, based on training Iraqi forces and targeted counter-terrorism operations.
Lincoln D. Chafee, who lost his Senate seat in the wave of anti-Republican sentiment in last November's election, said that he has left the party.
Chafee said Sunday he disaffiliated with the party he had helped lead, and his father had led before him, because the national Republican Party has gone too far away from his stance on too many critical issues, from war to economics to the environment.
"It's not my party any more," he said.
Outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces have been targeted by hostile fire in just one other place on the planet recently.
Though little noticed outside of the Pentagon, the attack occurred last week (Sept. 11) in Mali, a northwest African state that the Pentagon fears could become home to training bases or other havens for terrorists.
A U.S. C-130 transport plane was hit by machine-gun fire after it dropped seven tons of food to Malian government soldiers fending off Tuareg rebels near the border with Algeria. No U.S. troops were injured and the plane suffered minor damage.