Lurch’s plan, you may recall, was offered as an alternative to the Reed-Levin proposal. R-L called for U.S. forces to begin withdrawing by a certain date; Kerry called for them to finish withdrawing by a certain date (namely, July 1, 2007). Result: Yeas 13, Nays 86.

Nine months later we’ve got a new defense secretary and commanding general, a so-far-so-good surge in Baghdad, and even a nascent dialogue with Iran. Yet suddenly Kerry finds his plan in vogue. What gives?

Why, politics, darling. Remember who we’re talking about here.

For Kerry’s June 2006 effort, which would have withdrawn U.S. combat troops by June 2007, the lanky junior senator from Massachusetts was rewarded by a scathing report in The New York Times entitled, “On Iraq, Kerry Again Leaves Democrats Fuming.” The Times reported the 2004 presidential nominee’s “fellow Democrats” were fearful that “the latest evolution of Mr. Kerry’s views on Iraq may now complicate their hopes of taking back a majority in Congress in 2006.”

Said Biden of Kerry’s proposal back then: “Setting a date is not a plan.” Added Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., ”If the argument comes down to, ‘Is it one year or 18 months,’ I think we’re going to confuse people. I’m not sure what the value is; I think it hurts us rather than helps.”

Not only did Biden appear beside Kerry at the Democrats’ presser to announce the new bill, he’s started his very own nutroots-brand online petition that calls upon Congress to … set a date.

Exit question: How ominous is that a man known unaffectionately as Flipper is the voice of principle and consistency on this issue?