Obama's Afghanistan Decision Risks a Democratic Party Civil War

This decision is exactly the change liberals voted for.

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By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

"Mr. President, this is not the change we voted for," liberal commentator and radio host, Bill Press, writes today in his "parting shot."

Press' defiance is in reaction to President Barack Obama's decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in an effort to win the war. There's a small problem, though: This is exactly the change Obama supporters voted for. During the 2008 campaign, Obama's pledge to "listen to the generals on the ground" received standing ovations for its indictment of George W. Bush. If not a rallying cry, it was an important talking point for liberals seeking to highlight how Obama equaled change.

Perhaps the Left assumed Obama didn't actually mean what he said. Whatever their rationale, in opposing Obama on Afghanistan liberals risk creating a civil war within their own party.

While many Republicans favor and support Obama's decision, Democrats on Capitol Hill are openly criticizing the President.

"I do not support adding more troops because there are now 200,000 American, NATO and Afghan forces fighting roughly 20,000 Taliban and less than 100 al-Qaeda," Sen. Barbara Boxer argued.

"I do not support the president's decision...I am disappointed by his decision not to offer a timetable for ending our military presence there," said Sen. Russ Feingold.

Rep. Louise Slaughter added, "I see no good reason for us to send another 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan." For Slaughter, Obama's desire to win the war is apparently just not good enough.

These statements are significant. Politically, however, they pale in significance to Democratic candidates who oppose Obama's decision. Democratic candidates have their ear to the ground and demonstrate that the base—who rang the doorbells, made the phone calls, and sent the text messages—is not happy.

Nowhere is this better seen than Ohio's Democratic primary to replace GOP Sen. George Voinovich.

"At the risk of being called a naysayer," Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner blogged yesterday, just before naysaying, "I believe the costs are too great—in human lives and economic resources—to continue along the current path."

Not to be outdone, Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who faces Brunner in the primary, issued a statement saying, "Defeating al-Qaeda does not require 30,000 additional troops be sent to Afghanistan."

In the critical swing state of Ohio, the natives, at least those on the Left, are restless.

Liberals were already disappointed. The "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy remains unchanged. Gitmo is still open for business. Now they're angry. But Obama knows he can't dump the Left. He will need them on his side, just as they need something that justifies their love in the first place and represents a real victory (a real change) and stimulus money ain't it.

Let's go back to Bill Press for a moment, because he offers an important clue to liberal thinking today (Credit Bill for this, when liberals try to describe themselves as anything but liberal—Where do you think all these "progressives" came from?—he embraces the label), "Forget Afghanistan," he writes. "We've got some nation-building to do, right here at home."

That can only mean healthcare. While Obama's decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan angers the Left, it may cause them to dig in their heels, both on Capitol Hill and in key battleground states, for the big prize: the public option Obama appears willing to take or leave on the table.

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