"Cutting and Running" 

It's a strategy that has brought new meaning to "flip-flop."

We spent all last week listening to "cut and run" Democrats talking about their cut-and-run strategy for Iraq, and the only issue is whether they want to cut and run by the end of this year or cut and run by the end of next year. And oh, by the way, did I mention that Republicans have been choreographed to refer to the Democrats' plans as cut and run?

As Vice President Dick ("Last Throes") Cheney said last Thursday, redeployment of our troops would be "the worst possible thing we could do. ... No matter how you carve it -- you can call it anything you want -- but basically it is packing it in, going home ... validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight."

Then right in the middle of Cut and Run Week, the top American commander in Iraq, General George W. Casey Jr., held a classified briefing at the Pentagon and revealed his plan to reduce the 14 combat brigades now in Iraq to five or six. And here's the best part: Rather than wait until the end of this year or, heaven forefend, next year, Casey wants to start moving those troops out in September, just before whatever it is that happens in early November. They don't call him George W. Jr. for nothing.

One has to admit, the party never ends with the Bush administration. The only question about Cut and Run Week is whether they meant to punctuate a week-long festival of referring to Democrats as the party of "retreat" and "the white flag" with this rather abrupt announcement of their own cut and run program. Was it an error of timing?

I say no. I say Karl Rove doesn't make timing mistakes. This administration thoroughly believes the media and the people have a collective recollection of no more than one day. Five days of cut and run, one day off, and BAM, you get your own cut and run plan out there.

Republicans have, in fact, a well-developed sense of aesthetics. Regard the superb pairing of the decision not to raise the minimum wage with the continued push to repeal the estate tax. House Republicans had almost opened their marble hearts and raised the minimum wage, now at $5.15 an hour, to a whopping $7.25 an hour by 2009. (Since 1997, when they last raised it, members of Congress have hiked their own pay by $31,000 a year.)

This might have gone well with their decision to reduce the estate tax yet again, so that only the top half a percent of estates will pay it -- costing the treasury $602 billion over the first 10 years. But declining to increase the minimum wage to match the vote to decrease taxes on the very, very, very richest? That's suave.

Also, Republicans pulled a very slick move on the Voting Rights Act extension. No amendments, no exemptions, the South rose again and blocked the whole deal. Which Southern state do you think will be the first to pass laws to hold down the black vote? My money is on 'Bama -- for sentimental reasons.

And now, on to flag burning. What flag burning? you may well ask. Just because something doesn't happen is no reason not to outlaw it. Or, for that matter, not to amend the Constitution of the United States.

I am considering introducing an amendment to require everyone in the audience at Peter Pan to clap for Tinkerbell. I believe 99.8 percent of them do already, but that's no reason not to amend the Constitution to require it. I don't believe we should allow people to be different. If someone wants to burn a flag as symbolic political protest, I believe he should be beheaded. Also, flipping the bird at George W. should merit the same, but not flipping off Clinton -- Bill or Hillary.

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