The dilemma Democrats are going to face on Iraq is this. One element of the party is willing to say that the emperor has no clothes, that the war is a disaster, and that we should end it as soon as we can. Another group has gotten very good at saying that the war is a disaster, that the president is fucking things up, and then staying vague on what it is they actually want to do while simulaneously triangulating themselves away from the Democratic left...So the Senate is going to approve Gates before Christmas, notwithstanding his connections to Iran-Contra, and the Dems will (more or less) let it happen. This may not be an endorsement, per se, but it will be clear that the Dems didn't hold it until they held the whip hand in the Senate. It's thin ice, but if it turns out that Gates can't "win" in Iraq like every sane observer expects he can't and the Dems need to make a boogeyman out of him, they might pull it off. Still, I think if the Dems confirm Gates they'll be stuck with him until 2008.
Moderate Gates-supporters will be used to smear further left Democrats who think it's unseemly to put (yet another!) Iran-Contra figure in an important national security post. Then they'll wake up a few months later and see that with Rumsfeld gone, they've lost their license to simply issue vague complaints -- they'll have personally endorsed the new leadership.
So when Iraq continues to go to shit on them, who can the Dems use to personify the Bush administration's continuing incompetence and arrogance? How about the other monster in the executive branch, Dick Cheney. It's no secret that Rumsfeld's second biggest backer in Bush's cabinet has been Cheney (after Bush himself.) Much of the faulty intelligence that was used to justify the war in Iraq originated either from the Pentagon or the Vice President's office (with heavy cross-pollination between the two.) And of course, at least one indicted criminal from the VP's office (Scooter Libby) is likely to go to trial during the next two years.
Which brings us to Jon Schwarz, who calls for Cheney to be next on the hit list. It's hard to see how this is a loser for the Dems - investigating Cheney's involvement in the war is the very next best thing to impeachment, Cheney is incredibly unpopular, and he also happens to be guilty as sin.
It also - purely politically speaking - allows the Dems to focus the issue of Iraq on personality, not policy. Actually advocating the sane policy - withdrawal - seems to still be an electoral loser, so the Dems' only hope is to focus the debate on competence, not the goal itself. The future prospects of the Democratic Party are probably best served if Iraq collapses entirely sometime in June-July, 2009, but no sooner or later.
That this will involve the deaths of hundreds of more troops, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, simply because it's politically expedient is a reality that is best not to dwell on, lest we all commit seppuku out of shame.