Iraq Debate, Gore's Oscar

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As lawmakers look for ways to redirect U.S. policy on Iraq, some are considering an amendment to the resolution that gave President Bush congressional support for the invasion. And former Vice President Al Gore now has an Oscar. Does that give him fresh clout?


So there's a case history with Senator Sununu. He's one of many lawmakers being tested by the war in Iraq. To talk about some of the others, we've brought in NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts, who joins us every Monday. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Is this debate moving anywhere?

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Well, as David alluded to, there is an attempt to try to amend the original authorization for the war. Senator Carl Levin yesterday - he's the chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate - says it's hard to find the wording for some re-authorization. But they're looking for ways to put U.S. troops in what he called, quote, "support role rather than a combat role." He doesn't think it's possible to remove all the troops. Now, that proposal is in contrast to another Democratic proposal in the House that it would be to limit funding in some way for the war in Iraq. And that is something that many Democrats, limiting the funding, many Democrats think is a political disaster for the party. So the truth is, Steve, I think nothing is likely to pass. There are not 60 votes in the Senate on rewriting a war authorization and there's not agreement among the Democrats on funding.

INSKEEP: Well, if there aren't 60 votes, which is what you would need to pass something controversial like this, is there an argument among Democrats for simply saying they disagree with the war, leaving at that, moving onto other issues?

ROBERTS: Well, that would make a lot of sense because, after all, this is the war being prosecuted by the Republican administration. But there is so much pressure from the Democratic base on this issue, and of course it was the issue that brought the Democrats into power, and it is much, much, much exacerbated by the fact that the presidential campaign has already started and the Democratic presidential candidates are already at each other's throats on the issue of Iraq. So I think that there's some effort inside of the Congress to try to keep some kind of peace in the party by coming up with a unified position. But so far that is failing and I think that you are going see more and more infighting on this issue, whereas the Republican candidates seem to be unified for the war and for the surge. And whether that, in the end, works against them is going to depend, obviously, on what happens in Iraq. But you have Guiliani, Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, all supporting this war and this surge. So, the fighting is all on the Democratic side.

INSKEEP: Any danger that the debate over the war is going to stall efforts to make progress on other issues?

ROBERTS: Well, the Democrats are trying to make progress on other issues and they have certainly passed all the things they said they were going to pass in their first hundred hours in the House. But having the Senate in Democratic hands, as we've talked about before, becomes a problem for them.

INSKEEP: Now, let me ask about one other thing, Cokie. Of course it was Oscar weekend and former Vice President Al Gore won an Oscar last night for the documentary they did on global warming. Is that going to affect public policy?

ROBERTS: Well, it's so interesting. Democrats are all now talking about is Gore going to get into the presidential race. And it is possible that the candidates who are already fighting with each other will kill each other off and somebody who can get a lot of money, like Gore, could come in late and everybody sort of watching to see if he doesn't and he kind of joked about it last night during the Oscar celebration. But he has already affected the policy. The administration is moving on the question of global warming; inch by inch, but moving. And that's true about the Democrats taking over Congress on a variety of things. Not just bills that they have passed, but pushing the administration. The fact that the president is now saying to Pakistan you have to go after al-Qaida because the Democratic Congress might cut off aid to you if you don't, shows you that it gives some leverage to the administration to have a Democratic Congress on some issues that they might have wanted to move on anyway.

INSKEEP: Okay. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts, who joins us every Monday morning for some analysis.

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