The Democrats are dropping a timeline for withdrawal in their bill to fund the Iraq war, and who is surprised? Despite the strong weight of those 171 recent votes in favor of withdrawal, leaders know that number — hefty though it may be — isn't veto-proof, and this whole game is about the veto. Democrats have made the flavor last a long time, through March and April and May, while the White House told the public the troops are going to be compromised if the funds dry up. Memorial Day approaches; the Democrats know this is over.
Sure, there will be some benchmarks for political progress, and the threat of withholding aid, and more importantly, there will be Republican votes for the bill. Large numbers of anti-war Democrats could drop off the bandwagon this time, but with the help of the GOP the majority doesn't need them anymore. Republicans, who opposed the timetables because they didn't want to announce a withdrawal date to the enemy, have turned around and done it to themselves: They have announced to the opposition party exactly when they will leave the Bush reservation and begin to oppose the war in earnest. They have said clearly that in September, if Gen. Petraeus can't give the surge a good report card, there better be a Plan B or they cannot continue to support the war.