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Bin Laden’s punditry comes up short

In a new tape purportedly by Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader criticizes the Democratic-controlled Congress, which has voted to fund the war, “which has led to the vast majority of you being afflicted with disappointment.” But his punditry fails to take account of the realities of congressional politics.
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Once again Friday Osama bin Laden was playing his role as part-time pundit from an undisclosed location.

Bin Laden, taking on the role of analyst of American politics, says in a newly released tape, that the American people want the Iraq war ended and “elected the Democratic Party for this purpose” in the 2006 elections.

But, he adds, “the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning,” and instead the Democratic-controlled Congress has chosen to vote to fund the war, “which has led to the vast majority of you being afflicted with disappointment.”

In a manner often used by analysts of the left, bin Laden argues that the reason Democrats won’t end the war is that their candidates are funded by major corporations. He does not mention funding by labor unions or by other Democratic constituencies, such as environmental or abortion rights groups.

Bin Laden is at least partly right that there is some discontent within Democratic ranks because, so far this year, proponents of cutting off funding for the war have fallen short in votes in the House and Senate.

Democrats who voted for Iraq funds
In the most recent significant war funding vote in the House, on May 24, 86 of the 233 House Democrats voted with nearly all the House Republicans to approve $100 billion in funding for military operations in Iraq.

An e-mail appeal from the anti-war group complained Thursday that “there are a set of weak Democrats who side with the president — especially on Iraq. They're too scared to fight for what's right and what they were elected to fight for.” asks it members, “Should we support primary challengers against some Democrats who side with the president on Iraq? It's a tough question, and one we need everybody's input on.”

The 86 House Democrats who voted to fund Iraq military operations, nearly 40 percent of the House membership, are the ones has in mind.

But here’s what bin Laden — viewing American politics perhaps from a cave or a house in northwest Pakistan, may be missing: The House seats that Speaker Nancy Pelosi truly needs to keep — and the ones most at risk in next year’s elections — are mostly not those of anti-war Democrats, but those of centrist Democrats from states such as Indiana and Kansas.

These are the Democrats who have voted to not cut off funding for the war.

Freshmen members cast vote for funds
Among the 86 Democrats who voted for the funding were 18 of the freshmen elected last November who took over what had been Republican seats.

These freshmen members included Reps. Tim Walz of rural Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of upstate New York, Nancy Boyda of Kansas and Brad Ellsworth of Indiana.

Walz said on the day of that crucial vote, “If I thought that a 'no' vote would end this tomorrow in a responsible manner, of course I'd go in that direction."

But, he argued, a “no” vote on funding would have caused shortages in supplies for soldiers and Marines in the field. Without the money, "There'll be no bullets for live fire exercises for the training," he said.

Even at this late stage, more than four years after the invasion of Iraq, many Democrats do not think it is smart politics in their districts, which are more conservative than Cambridge, Mass., or Seattle, to vote against funding the deployment in Iraq.

Joining those freshmen were veteran Democrats from Southern and rural Midwestern districts, members such as Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina.

And although Pelosi voted against the May 24 funding bill, she seems to understand what bin Laden apparently doesn’t: She’d probably have no majority were it not for those centrist-conservative members.