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Those Pesky Democrats

The Democrats, if united, wouldn’t need the Republicans to push through the Obama agenda. But time and again we have seen resistance — to reconciliation as a means of pushing through cap-and-trade and health-care, to limits on deductibility of charitable donations, and to card check. Moderate and conservative Democrats have not been shy about speaking up when they think the president is out of step with their constituents. The same may be true on defense cuts. We have this report:

Something to watch for for: Dems in Congress who, worried about cuts to defense programs in their states in the proposed restructuring of the Pentagon budget, cross over into questioning Obama’s commitment to national security.

We now have our first candidate: Blue Dog Dem Dan Boren of Oklahoma.

[. . .]

Now Boren has added his voice to Inhofe’s chorus. “The administration’s announcement today of sweeping changes to key defense programs is a significant concern,” Boren said in a statement posted, tellingly, on Inhofe’s Web site. “Even in tough economic times, providing a strong national defense for the American people should remain a top priority of the federal government.”
Boren added that “it is important that we empower our military commanders by providing the resources they need” and called for the Obama administration to “keep these realities firmly in mind.”
The key is that Boren is treating it as an open question whether strong national defense is a “top priority” for Obama and whether he’s keeping the need to arm military commanders “firmly in mind.” The only other Dem to criticize the overhaul, Alaska Senator Mark Begich, stuck to substantive criticism and didn’t go this far.

Of course Boren’s criticism is substantive — the president is shortchanging defense.

Now on Iraq and Afghanistan the president has abandoned his netroot base and pursued the goals laid out by the Bush administration — a free and functioning Iraq and victory in Afghanistan. But he risks rekindling the same “weak on defense” arguments with which Republicans used to bash Democrats. Some Democrats apparently don’t feel comfortable being on the wrong side of this issue.

Ultimately there are a variety of issues — some parochial and some very “substantive,” which will motivate congress to look carefully at the Obama defense cuts. But if we have seen any consistent pattern it is that moderate and conservative Democrats perceive that their interests don’t coincide with the president’s. A workable centrist  block in congress may emerge on defense spending and other issues. Stay tuned.


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