Rep. Jerry Nadler was the only lawmaker at a meeting of all House Democrats on Thursday to stand up and declare that he could not support a compromise plan to fund the Iraq war with a timeline to end the conflict. So some party leaders had written him off even as he joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a private meeting.
In the confines of the speaker's suite, Nadler (N.Y.) could be specific. He sought assurances from Pelosi (Calif.) that President Bush would be compelled to withdraw all troops from combat by August 2008, as the legislation proposed. He wanted to know: "What is the legal compulsion to follow this timeline?"
A Pelosi aide disappeared from the meeting for a few minutes and returned with a few lines of legislative text offering what Nadler wanted to hear: Once troops are out of Iraq, no money would be available to put them back in, outside the narrow exceptions of targeted counterterrorism operations, embassy protection and efforts to train Iraqis.
"You know," Nadler said after a pause, "I think that's okay."
For Nadler's vote, it meant a provision for enforcement. For the backing of Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), it was language prohibiting an attack on Iran without congressional authorization. For the support of Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), a National Guardsman who trained troops for Iraq, it was the inclusion of a waiver that the president could invoke to get around strict standards of troop readiness.
In other words, give everyone a little bit of what they want, and they'll come around. But again, they would have nothing to rally to without a firm plan that states definitely when American troops must come home, and that's what the Democrats have now.
I truly do feel as if we've turned a corner on the politics of this war. By no means do I think that the participation of American forces in the Iraq war will end anytime soon, and Democrats aren't calling for that. They understand that it will take time and effort to rally public support and bring enough Republicans around to support these measures. But they also finally learned the lesson that they would have to take a definitive stand to even bring anyone around to their side in the first place. They've done so, and perhaps the era of Bush's "indefinite war" is coming to an end.