E.J. Dionne: An AntiWar Tide On The Rise

Damn tooting, it's on the rise. And among people who have never protested anything before, let alone an entire (Bush) Administration and a war. We're talking red staters as well as blue, old as well as young, Republicans and Indies as much as Democrats.

But here's what Dionne writes (read the rest here):

Within three weeks, the United States could face a constitutional crisis over President Bush's war policy in Iraq. The president and his allies seem to want this fight. Yet insisting upon a confrontation will be another mistake in a long line of bad judgments about a conflict that grows more unpopular by the day.

Last week's narrow House vote imposing an August 2008 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops was hugely significant, even if the bill stands no chance of passing in the Senate this week in its current form. The vote was a test of the resolve of the new House Democratic leadership and its ability to pull together an ideologically diverse membership behind a plan pointing the United States out of Iraq.

To understand the importance of the vote, one need only consider what would have been said had it gone the other way: A defeat would have signaled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's powerlessness to create a governing majority from a fragmented Democratic membership. In a do-or-die vote, Pelosi lived to fight another day by creating a consensus in favor of withdrawal that included some of her party's most liberal and most conservative members.

The vote is only the first of what will be many difficult roll calls potentially pitting Congress against the president on the conduct of war policy. It confirmed that power in Washington has indeed shifted. Bush and his Republican congressional allies had hoped Democrats would splinter and open the way for a pro-Bush resolution of the Iraq issue. Instead, antiwar Democrats, including Web-based groups such as MoveOn.org, discovered a common interest with their moderate colleagues.

Oddly, the president's harsh rhetoric against the House version of the supplemental appropriations bill to finance the Iraq war may have been decisive in sealing Pelosi's victory. "The vehemence with which the president opposed it made it clear to a lot of people that this was a change in direction and that it was significant," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of MoveOn, saw the Bush effect rallying his own antiwar membership. "Bush is our worst enemy," Matzzie said, "and our best ally."