Wednesday, December 07, 2005


There They Go Again...

It had been almost imperceptible, but today's Washington Post confirmed what had seemed to be happening since shortly before Thanksgiving: After months of George W. Bush being on the defensive (essentially since mid-summer), the policy tar pit that is Iraq is once again threatening to drag down Democrats:

Strong antiwar comments in recent days by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have opened anew a party rift over Iraq, with some lawmakers warning that the leaders' rhetorical blasts could harm efforts to win control of Congress next year.

Several Democrats joined President Bush yesterday in rebuking Dean's declaration to a San Antonio radio station Monday that "the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."

The critics said that comment could reinforce popular perceptions that the party is weak on military matters and divert attention from the president's growing political problems on the war and other issues. "Dean's take on Iraq makes even less sense than the scream in Iowa: Both are uninformed and unhelpful," said Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), recalling Dean's famous election-night roar after stumbling in Iowa during his 2004 presidential bid.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democratic leader, have told colleagues that Pelosi's recent endorsement of a speedy withdrawal, combined with her claim that more than half of House Democrats support her position, could backfire on the party, congressional sources said.

These sources said the two leaders have expressed worry that Pelosi is playing into Bush's hands by suggesting Democrats are the party of a quick pullout -- an unpopular position in many of the most competitive House races.
These words symbolize a distinct seismic shift. Following Hurricane Katrina, questions on pre-war intelligence, the indictment of Scooter Libby and the death of the 2000th American service member, Bush tumbled precipitously in the polls. But the combination of the fierce Bush-Cheney (and House GOP) pushback, a divided Democratic response plus the ever-reliable Howard Dean has again turned Democrats into Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.

Republicans have been cowering for months dealing with Iraq,
Tom DeLay, Bill Frist -- not to mention Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Jack Abramoff -- and what it might mean for the 2006 elections. But, now, for the first time in quite a while, it's Democrats who are getting uneasy about next year's polls. Hey, they know what happened in 2002 and 2004 when this scenario played out -- Bush and the GOP were united with a national security/war policy that might not have been fully formed (or planned), but sounded much more confident than the message of the opposition party that sounded divided, defeatist and depressed. Democrats lost seats in 2002 and the presidential race -- again -- in 2004.

And that's why they say things like, "A year is an eternity in politics."

But, the problem is not going away. More than four years after 9/11, Democrats still have no unified response for when Republicans decide to go to the mat on national security issues. Furthermore, Democrats' worst enemy is themselves. Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are, respectively, from Vermont and San Francisco -- two of the most liberal locales in the country. If Bush & Co. have been willing to take on a clear
military hero like John Murtha over the issue of withdrawal, ya think Dean and Pelosi have the White House quaking in fear?

Shaking with laughter and gratitude before God is more like it.

Meanwhile, Democrats must be starting to get frustrated by what seems to be an interesting "Connecticut-Texas" two-step emerging between Joe Lieberman and George W. Bush. Last week, Lieberman prints an
op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining why the U.S. can't withdraw from Iraq:

We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
The next day, the president praised Lieberman during his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy:
As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."
Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally.
Yesterday, Lieberman turned around and praised Bush's speech:
Last Wednesday, the president laid out his strategy for victory in a speech at the Naval Academy and accompanying white paper. The plan, developed over the 21/2 years since Saddam Hussein's overthrow, has resulted from trial and yes, many errors. It describes the strategy, the tactics, that I saw in Iraq two weeks ago and that I believe are creating progress there.
So, what's up for today's Iraq speech -- Bush offering Lieberman the vice president spot after Cheney "retires" due to ill health?

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