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Starting to Realize There’s a War On


Given my post here last Thursday about the need for Democratic presidential candidates to take the lead in ending the Iraq occupation (a theme that was promptly swiped taken up by Atrios and at Daily Kos), it was heartening to read Christy’s post earlier today describing John Edwards’ decision to put Iraq on his campaign’s front burner:

President Bush wants everyone to keep playing the Beltway game. But this isn’t a game – lives are at stake. Young men and women are dying almost every day and Iraq is descending further into civil war. It’s time to end the game – we can’t wait. Congress must tell the president something very simple: No timetable, no funding. No excuses.

But even as Edwards (and other candidates who have taken stronger Iraq stands, like Richardson, Dodd, Kucinich, and even Joe Biden in his own perverse way) seeks to differentiate himself to Democratic primary voters, he should remember who the real target is, and it isn’t Congress.

As incredibly enjoyable effective as it can be to beat the Democrats on Capitol Hill with a stick for being too cowardly to stand up to Dubya, they might find it easier to be brave if a prominent party spokesperson — like, say, one of the presidential candidates — was articulating a broad, thematic message on the war (and national security in general) that they could get behind. In a post last December, when the current escalation was announced, I wrote:

The crux of the problem is that it’s not just about whether Democrats can force a withdrawal; it’s about why we’re withdrawing.

Given a divided government for the next two years, we’re locked in a battle of narratives with the Republicans. Dubya isn’t insane (at least not entirely) — he (or Cheney or Rove, or whoever) is making a calculated gamble that the long-term benefit of sticking with the “resolve” narrative will overcome the short-term unpopularity of escalating the war… and that whatever fuss they might raise, Democrats won’t be able to make them pay a permanent price for it.

So the absence of an effective Democratic narrative isn’t just an abstract issue. At this point, it’s actually enabling the Bushites to lengthen the war.

More than eight months later, I think that’s still the case. As necessary as it is to exhaustively debunk the lies that the Bushites tell, it’s just as important not to get lost in the details — because I guarantee you that what the “Bush Dogs” are worried about (and what keeps them from voting to end the war) is the voters in their districts who aren’t persuaded by facts, relying instead on the kind of visceral appeals Karl Rove and Co. specialize in.

If you want to have a chance of persuading those voters, I think it’s important to present the “surge” as not just a failure but a moral failure by a president who is selling the same snake oil he and his minions have been peddling for years as he betrays the trust of our troops (ask Joe Galloway of McClatchy Newspapers about that). As I went on to say last week:

Then, once that presumption of superior daddy-hood has been stripped away from the Bushites, you can start talking about how perhaps telling the truth about the threats that face us, and doing what works to defeat them, might be a better approach than the bluster-loudly-and-shoot-yourself-in-the-foot approach the GOP seems to love so much.

Speaking of which, the Edwards campaign is touting a speech tomorrow by John E. as “a major policy address on counterterrorism in which he will outline his plan to make America safer.” Could be a start; I’ll be interested to see what he says.

Meanwhile, Hillary and Barack… would you mind waking up and joining the fight, if it’s not too much trouble?

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Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (