That leaves Democrats with some less-than-desirable options in the coming weeks. Some Republicans, like Ohio’s George Voinovich and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, seem willing to consider legislation that might redefine the U.S. mission in Iraq. But their support for any initiative will almost certainly be contingent on it not imposing any enforceable restrictions on the President’s decision-making authority.
There is also the “time-off” proposal, which would mandate that troops receive a month off for every month of active duty. It, too, died after a G.O.P. filibuster threat in July, but it might now represent a compromise that wavering Republicans could latch onto. But, again, Mr. Bush, who views it as a backdoor maneuver to force troop withdrawals, would use his veto pen—and, again, it’s unlikely Democrats could find those magic 290 House and 67 Senate votes.
These prospects will undoubtedly reignite calls from some Democratic quarters to end the war by cutting off funding. But advocates of this position make the mistake of assuming that Congressional Democrats share their missionary zeal for ending the war immediately and at any cost. They don’t, and if the party’s Congressional leadership ever advanced this proposal, they would suffer defections that would immediately render their tenuous House and Senate majorities meaningless.
All summer, many Democrats believed that September would bring a revolt from within the G.O.P., with the party’s Congressional rank-and-file jumping ship to save themselves in 2008. For the White House, General Petraeus’ job was to keep enough of them on board. It appears he succeeded.