The Moose warns Democrats not to identify with defeat.
These are difficult days for the GOP. The Bush Administration is losing its grip and appears untethered to reality. The President wasn't exactly reassuring when he repeatedly remarked on Monday that he "thinks about Iraq every day." Gee, what a relief! What should he think about every day - the Texas Rangers' pitching rotation?
Although the public's perception of Iraq is changing, Democrats cannot become the anti-war party - they must be smart hawks. Even at the apex of the Vietnam war in 1968, the American people elected the most hawkish candidate. The combined Nixon and Wallace vote formed an overwhelming majority. And Nixon crushed the anti-war McGovern in '72. While it may be currently attractive for Democrats to advocate an early exit, that position can come back to haunt the party if Iraq implodes and it becomes a terrorist haven.
One of the smartest of the smart hawks is Senator Joe Biden. Yesterday, Biden gave perhaps the most direct, concrete, bracing, sober and honest presentation on Iraq to date. He sounded like a President - specifically, Harry Truman. Senator Biden spoke clearly and distinctly about a success strategy that demands changing the course rather than staying the course. He balanced his criticism of the Administration's "credibility chasm" with a detailed outline of a success strategy.
Democrats should follow Biden's lead on Iraq. While they should not spare any criticism of the Administration for its mendacity and failures, Democrats must be seen as on the side of success - which means ensuring that Iraq does not descend into chaos and a terrorist playground.
The Moose also notes the interesting dichotomy in the latest Gallup Poll. The survey reflects the public's growing dissatisfaction with 59% opposing the war and only 39% supporting it. However, 58% support keeping the Guantanamo Detention facility open and only 36% wanting to close it.
One way to interpret this difference is that the American people no longer believe that the Iraq war is linked to the overall war on terror. They do believe, however, that there are some very bad people who wish to do us harm and should be held in a detention center that is distinct from Club Med.
The Moose is certainly not defending the torture of prisoners. And the disposition of the detainees at Gitmo should be adjudicated by some authority. However, some Democrats risk creating the unfair perception that the party is the ACLU of terrorist suspects. The Republicans, of course, demagogue the issue - but Democrats should not give them an opening with over-the-top hyperbole.
Until Bill Clinton came along, the Democrats were stigmatized as the party that coddled criminals. In the age of terror, the donkey can ill afford to be the party that is viewed as soft on terrorists. --