AN UNEXPECTED VETO….The president went nearly six years in office without vetoing a single bill, but has now had seven — including funding the war in Iraq, stem-cell research (twice), and healthcare for low-income kids (twice). In each instance, lawmakers were well aware of the White House’s opposition, but passed the bills anyway, hoping Bush would either change his mind or they could override the veto.

Which is what makes veto #8 so odd.

At the behest of the Iraqi government, President Bush will veto the annual defense authorization bill, saying an obscure provision in the legislation could make Iraqi assets held in U.S. banks vulnerable to lawsuits.

The veto threat startled Democratic congressional leaders, who believe Bush is bowing to pressure from the Iraqi government over a technical provision in the bill. The veto is unexpected because there was no veto threat and the legislation passed both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly.

Democratic leaders say the provision in question could easily be worked out, but in vetoing the massive defense policy bill, military pay raises may be on hold, as well as dozens of other programs.

This is just bizarre. If the provision of the bill was so offensive, why didn’t the White House, which was aware of the legislation’s progress as it passed, say something sooner?

As the AP noted, “sovereign nations are normally immune from lawsuits in U.S. courts. An exception is made for state sponsors of terrorism and Iraq was designated such a nation in 1990. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, however, Congress passed a law and Bush issued a decree stating that Iraq was exempt from such lawsuits.”

So, what’s the problem here?

Keep in mind, the veto of the defense authorization bill puts a variety of key spending measures in limbo, including a pay raise for the troops, VA care for wounded veterans, a new “Truman Commission” to fight fraud and waste by military contractors, and expanded job protections for family members of severely wounded troops.

What a mess.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.