Modern day McGovern-HatfieldRick Perlstein wrote an article titled "Why Democrats can stop the war" in January 2007. Perlstein takes a look back and reviews the legislative efforts to end the Vietnam war.
I can't get over the striking parallels between the Iraq redeployment bill and the McGovern-Hatfield amendment, which did not end the Vietnam War but undoubtedly played in large role in doing so. They are basically identical legislation - different war. Heck, even the sponsors last names are the same (McGovern).
It seems that wars are really, really hard to stop once they start. The legislative process to end them was once described as "hideous sausage making".
A snippet from Perlstein's article:
George McGovern, D-S.D., and Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., were in charge of the granddaddy of them all: an amendment requiring the president to either go to Congress for a declaration of war or end the war, by Dec. 31, 1970. Walter Shapiro wrote that a "skittish" Congress made sure its antiwar legislation had "loopholes" to permit the president to take action to protect U.S. troops in the field" -- which means no genuine congressional exit mandate at all. But McGovern-Hatfield had no such "loopholes." (Of course, McGovern Hatfield didn't pass, and thus wasn't subject to the arduous political negotiating process that might have added them.) It was four sentences long, and said: Without a declaration of war, Congress would appropriate no money for Vietnam other than "to pay costs relating to the withdrawal of all U.S. forces, to the termination of United States military operations ... to the arrangement for exchanges of prisoners of war," and to "food and other non-military supplies and services" for the Vietnamese.The bill McNerney voted against, was certainly about "holding down the left-flank". McNerney's justification for his vote (detailed diplomatic plans and healthcare funding for veterans) would have, indeed, subjected the Iraq redeployment bill to "the arduous political negotiating process that might have added them".
Radical stuff. Far more radical than today's timid congressional critics are interested in going. But what today's timid congressmen must understand is that the dare paid off handsomely. With McGovern-Hatfield holding down the left flank, the moderate-seeming Cooper-Church passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee almost immediately. Was the president on the defensive? And how.
Look, I not only want Democrats to end the war, now, but I want them to be able to take credit for its end (only because they deserve it). McNerney's vote against the Iraq redeployment bill does not allow for such an outcome.