December 19, 2005
Have The Democrats Walked Into a Trap......Again?
The political pendulum is swinging back towards President Bush.
The President’s approval rating has a pattern of dipping
when he takes his Crawford vacation every August then bouncing
back in September upon his return to Washington. This year, however,
beginning with Cindy Sheehan, followed by Katrina, Harriet Miers,
the Fitzgerald investigation, and the negative drip-drip-drip
of reporting out of Iraq, Bush’s job approval continued
to drop into the beginning of November.
days in October laid the ground work for the President’s
turn around. The Miers withdrawal and subsequent nomination of
Samuel Alito staunched the bleeding from a large part of Bush’s
base, and the sole indictment from Special Prosecutor Patrick
Fitzgerald removed a major distraction for the White House. (At
least that is the way the Fitzgerald inquiry looks today, barring
any future, unexpected indictment(s).) With the foundation laid,
the White House launched a political counter-attack on Veterans
Day with a speech by President Bush directly criticizing his opponents
for rewriting the history of how the war in Iraq began.
the political ground had shifted beneath their feet, Democrats
continued to press forward with their offensive against the President.
They’ve now foolishly climbed out on a limb that Rove and
Bush have the real potential to chop off. One would think that
after the political miscalculations the Democrats made during
the 2002 and 2004 campaigns they would not make the same mistake
a third time, but it is beginning to look a lot like Charlie Brown
and the football again.
Democrats still do not grasp that foreign affairs and national
security issues are their vulnerabilities, not their strengths.
All of the drumbeat about Iraq, spying, and torture that the left
thinks is so damaging to the White House are actually positives
for the President and Republicans. Apparently, Democrats still
have not fully grasped that the public has profound and long-standing
concerns about their ability to defend the nation. As long as
national security related issues are front page news, the Democrats
are operating at a structural political disadvantage. Perhaps
the intensity of their left wing base and the overwhelmingly liberal
press corps produces a disorientation among Democratic politicians
and prevents a more realistic analysis of where the country’s
true pulse lies on these issues.
publicly defeatist language, John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and Howard
Dean reinforce these “soft on security” steroretypes,
a weakness that more sober-minded Democrats have been trying to
mitigate since the late 60’s and 70’s. Unfortunately,
this mentality dominates the Democrats’ political base and
more accurately represents where the heart and soul of the modern
Democratic party lies than the very tiny sliver of Joe Lieberman
Democrats. The Party of FDR, Truman and John Kennedy -- at least
on foreign policy -- is clearly no more.
Republicans very skillfully were able to paint the Democrats as
obstructionists on the Homeland Security bill and used the issue
to bash Democrats as soft on the War on Terror. In 2004, perceptions
that when it came to defending the nation, the leadership and
resolve of President Bush was superior to the Democrat Kerry was
always the tailwind at Bush’s back that led him to victory.
9/11 has certainly faded in the consciousness for most in Washington
these days (and for many in the country as a whole), for average
Joe American security is still a critically important issue. And
the bottom line is that average Americans’ sympathies are
not with terrorists trying to kill innocents, but rather with
our troops and security agents who are trying to combat these
resents the overkill from Abu Ghraib and the hand-wringing over
whether captured terrorists down in Gitmo may have been mistreated.
They want Kahlid Mohamed, one of the master minds
of 9/11 and a top bin Laden lieutanent, to be water-boarded if
our agents on the ground think that is what necessary to get the
intel we need. They want the CIA to be aggressively rounding up
potential terrorists worldwide and keeping them in “black
sites” in Romania or Poland or wherever, because the public
would rather have suspected terrorists locked away in secret prisons
in Bulgaria than plotting to kill Americans in Florida or California
or New York.
also has the wisdom to understand that when you are at war mistakes
will be made. You can’t expect 100% perfection. So while
individuals like Kahled Masri may have been mistakenly imprisoned,
that is the cost of choosing to aggressively fight this enemy.
Everyone understands that innocents were killed and imprisoned
mistakenly in World War II. Had we prosecuted WWII with the same
concern for the enemy’s “rights” the outcome
very well might have been different.
One of the
major problems working against Democrats is many on their side
appear to be rooting for failure in Iraq and publicly ridicule
the idea that we actually might win. When this impression is put
in context of the debate over eavesdropping or the Patriot Act,
Democrats run the significant risk of being perceived to be more
concerned with the enemy’s rights than protecting ordinary
Americans. This is a loser for Democrats.
want to make this spying “outrage” a page one story
they are fools walking right into a trap. Now that this story
is out and the security damage is already done, let’s have
a full investigation into exactly who the President spied on and
why. Let’s also find out who leaked this highly classified
information and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.
If the president is found to have broken the law and spied on
political opponents or average Americans who had nothing to do
with terrorism, then Bush should be impeached and convicted.
Senator Levin, who claimed on Meet The Press yesterday not to
know what the President’s motives were when he authorized
these eavesdropping measures, I have no doubt that the President’s
use of this extraordinary authority was solely an attempt to deter
terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies. Let the facts and
the truth come out, but the White House’s initial response
is a pretty powerful signal that they aren’t afraid of where
this is heading.
Democrats may be thinking twice about the change in the political
dialogue these past three weeks. Harry Reid had to reiterate twice
on FOX News Sunday that the he is “opposed to evil terrorists.”
That is about as loud of a warning bell as you can get. The public
may not like all or even the majority of what President Bush is
doing, but they have no doubt about his stance toward the “evil-doers.”
resounding success of last week’s election, it will become
harder for the press and the Democrats to frame Iraq as an unmitigated
disaster. You could see the mainstream media walking back the
negativity in their coverage of Iraq this past week and, while
I have no doubt the negative reporting will return, at some point
the facts start to win out – just as has happened with the
economy. Ironically, one benefit to the Bush administration from
the consistently negative reporting on Iraq is that expectations
have now been set so low the odds are better than 50-50 that 2006
will be viewed by the public as having seen significant
progress in Iraq.
may be writing stories about Bush “in a bubble” but
they are two months late to that theme. Just like the spring and
summer of 2004 when the conventional beltway wisdom said that
Bush’s sub-50% job approval made him a political goner,
there is a distinct sense this president is being misunderestimated