Editor's Note: Although President Bush refuses to make any concessions to his Iraq War critics – and indeed suggests they are helping the enemy – the Democratic congressional leaders have acquiesced to Bush's plan for a new bipartisan panel to advise him.

Initially, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the idea, noting that "Congress already has bipartisan structures in place" for such purposes. But on Jan. 30, they acceded to Bush's proposal, albeit insisting that they, not Bush, get to pick its Democratic members.

In this guest essay, Democratic political strategist Brent Budowsky argues that the Democrats are falling into another trap of phony bipartisanship set by a President who alternatively calls himself "the Decider" and "the Decision-maker":

Today, George W. Bush is one of the most dangerous men in the world. With an Iraq policy in collapse, escalating the mistakes that led to failure and catastrophic loss of public support, he is considering another preemptive war, against Iran.

For Democratic leaders to agree to a sham bipartisan group at this time sends a radically dangerous signal to Bush and Cheney. They will conclude rightly or wrongly, that Congress lacks the will to resist whatever moves Bush makes.

Today there is a perception management campaign underway, similar to the pre-war campaign about WMD in Iraq, designed to condition the public and Congress to accept action against Iran.
Since the November elections, the President has shown contempt for any semblance of bipartisanship, contempt for what the voters sought in the election, contempt for the military judgment of commanders he ignored, contempt for Democrats and Republicans in Congress, contempt for the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton group, and contempt for the very idea of diplomacy.

Meanwhile, the gunboats have been sent to threaten Iran; the selective and deceptive leaks have begun; and the totality of policy is escalation in Iraq and war threats against Iran.

This is disastrous policy. Attacking Iran could set off a great conflagration across the Middle East that would inflame regional religious war and even graver threats to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Today, American troops are not only in the middle of a civil war, they are under attack from both Sunni and Shi'ite forces, armed and funded not only from Shi'ite Iran but from wealthy Sunnis in nations the President calls America's friends, including wealthy Saudis.

Regarding Iran, there is a clear alternative: redeploying American troops out of Bagdhad to the protect the border with Iran, while opening negotiations as Baker-Hamilton and most congressional leaders in both parties support. Given this background,  

1. It is a dangerous mistake for Democrats to give any cover of bipartisanship to a policy rooted in the extremism of escalating Iraq on one hand, threatening Iran on the other, while rejecting all diplomacy.

2. Democrats should preferably withdraw from this "bipartisan" group. If they must proceed they should name Murtha, Kennedy and Feingold as part of any group.

3. Democrats should reiterate that any attack on Iran without prior authorization by Congress would be a violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Act and would therefore be illegal.

Such an attack would be catastrophic disaster and would open a serious national debate about high crimes and misdemeanors. The right and honorable thing is to make this clear today.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

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