It started with Bush's speech on Wednesday night. In it, he said:
In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.No. It is NOT their responsibility to explain the path to "success". It is up to Bush to define a strategy that makes success likely. In absence of a strategy for success, then it is up to Bush to explain the least objectionable path. Those who oppose this war are not the Commander-in-Chief - there's only one of those. And he is, God help us, George W. Bush.
It continued in Sunday's Presidential Radio Address:
Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.No. Members of Congress do NOT have this obligation. They are a separate branch of government from that of the executive. Someone should explain to Bush that the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch serve different purposes. The Executive, as Commander-in-Chief, is responsible for wartime strategies and plans. NOT Congress. That they believe and are saying they believe the surge is irresponsible, wrong-headed, and has nothing but past failures to predict future outcomes does NOT make them responsible to assume the powers of the Executive to propose tactics and strategies.
The President seemed to understand this basic separation of powers issue when he was on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, however (sorry - no link - I transcribed it myself during the show):
BUSH: And the reason I brought up the mistakes is one, that's the job of the Commander in Chief and two I don't want people blaming our military. We've got a bunch of good military people out there doing what we've asked them to do and the temptation is going to be to find scapegoats. Well if people want to find a scapegoat, they've got one right here in me because it's my decisions.That hasn't stopped John McCain from reading, adopting, and then taking one step further the Republican talking points. His interview on CBS' Face The Nation shows the complete transformation of the Straight Talk Express to the Sell Out Express (transcribed from the online video):
SHIEFFER: Let me ask you about voting. The Democrats are preparing to bring to both the Senate and the House floors a bi-partisan - what they hope will be a bi-partisan resolution of disapproval. We hear that some of the Republican leaders are so worried about this that they may try to filibuster it. I must tell you, I have never heard of anybody trying to filibuster a non-binding resolution. Number one, will you vote - how will you vote on that and do you think it will be a good thing to filibuster this and not allow it to come to a vote?No. McCain is trying to present two bad alternatives and compel the choice of the one that damages him the least. It's not the Democrat's responsibility, to show their veracity, to simply cut off funding. That's not the ONLY method left to them to try to compel some reality-based actions. This no-confidence resolution is one method. Senator Kennedy's proposal from Tuesday of last week is another such method. There is also talk about revisiting the AUMF as the mission has so clearly and substantially changed.
MCCAIN: Obviously I would vote to approve a - against a motion of disapproval. I think it would be foolish to filibuster. The Senate runs in such a way that people can attach amendments all the time. I'd be glad to have that debate. But on this issue - and it's a very important one - if we voice disapproval and send our young troops on their way as the President will do, what message does this send to the troops? That we disapprove of what they're doing but that we still support them but not their mission? Look - if these people are serious that oppose this increase in troops and change in strategy then then should vote to cut off funding and that way they can then say "we tried to stop it". A motion of disapproval I view as purely a political ploy to do further damage to the President of the United States. If they're dead serious, then we should have a motion to cut off funding. And that happened in the Vietnam war and unfortunately about Vietnam as well as Cambodia.
All of these are potential remedies within the Constitutional purview of the United States Congress. Saying that Congress has to either a) propose something that will be successful, thereby assumung the powers of the Executive; or b) choose only one of several Legislative alternatives is a poor-man's attempt to rope-a-dope.
NO. It's a really simple response.
"No, Chris [Matthews]. It's not our job to propose an alternative plan. That's the President's job. I'm surprised that after six years he hasn't learned the differences between the Executive and Legislative branches of government."
"No, Wolf. It's not our only option to suspend funding. We have other options that are within our Constitutional rights. We can move to re-authorize the use of military force. We can move to require the President submit detailed plans for his proposals including the monies attached to new and additional activities. Our only option is NOT to simply pull funding from the troops. I'm surprised Senator McCain doesn't realize that, what with his being in the Senate for so long."
I've seen Durbin, Dodd, and Obama all asked some variation of these questions. Their answers aren't bad, but they aren't a simple "NO." The false choices being presented to Democrats don't require that they respond as though they are being asked something reasonable. And sometimes, as with small children, a simple "NO" is the only answer that sinks in.