MSNBC: Tim, the White House is calling the Democratic plan for a troop pullout from Iraq a non-starter even though they’re using some of the benchmarks the president has already established for Iraq and added a few enticements that make it difficult for the Republican’s to say no to – benefits the help veterans who have already served in Iraq. What’s going to happen here?
Russert: The key is the date-certain withdrawal date, which the president and the Republicans just don’t want to go near.
The interesting things the Democrats have done, however, is put the burden on the president to state the U.S. is making progress, the Iraqis are cooperating the way they promised and that our troops are fully prepared to go over there – with the right equipment and the right training.
MSNBC: So, do we know how this is going to turn out?
Russert: It’s going to be an interesting debate in the House. The Democrats will probably have the votes in the House to pass.
The Senate’s a different story. While the Democrats have a majority of those present and voting, you need 60 to stop a filibuster and I don’t think there are enough Republicans that will crossover, at this point. So it could very well be blocked procedurally in the Senate.
If it did pass the Senate and pass the House, the president has already announced he will veto it. Then, of course, you would need two-thirds of both houses to override the veto.
So, it’s probably not going to be enacted as legislation, as such, but the Democrats believe the ’06 midterm elections were a mandate on Iraq and they’re trying to take specific steps to bring the war to a close much more quickly than the president would like.
MSNBC: For the president, some of those benchmarks, in order to continue to send more military over to Iraq, are very subjective. Can’t you already hear the rhetoric going back and forth already, before they even get to the point of argument over it?
Russert: That’s exactly right. And it’s not going to stop.
If, in fact, the roadside explosions continue and we hear from troops and parents and loved ones, saying they don’t have the necessary equipment, they’re not being trained properly or they’re on their third tour, it will cause more and more Americans to say, “You Know what? Enough of this war!”
That will only embolden the Democrats.
MSNBC: Can they stick together on it?
Russert: I think in large numbers, yes. They are looking at the same polls. They now know 70% of Americans believe the war is “not worth it” in terms of lives lost and the cost. It’s quite striking. Democrats now say they are very much now on the side of public opinion.
The president and the Republicans counter they are making the right and difficult decisions which are in the interests of own long-term security.
MSNBC: What will you be discussing Sunday, on Meet the Press?
Russert: We’re going to talk about this issue, front and center.
On Saturday, there is a meeting with the Iraqis, the Iranians and the Syrians and a key member there will be the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. We’ll have an exclusive interview with him when he finishes that meeting. We’ll find out if there’s a potential diplomatic solution to the war in Iraq.
Then, in our political roundtable, we’ll tackle the state of the Iraq resolutions in each of the Houses, the future of Vice president Dick Cheney, the Scooter Libby verdict and the 2008 presidential election. and a how lot more.
All Sunday on Meet the Press.