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August 23, 2005


Just for historic analogy: FDR's campaign in 1932 was premised on balancing the budget -- something on which it's fair to say he spent not 15 minutes once elected, and voters didn't exactly care. When an administration finds itself wrapped up in a policy as disastrous as Hoover's (and now Bush's), the voters have only one real option: turn to the opposition party and say "Fix this!" They'll judge you afterwards on whether you actually did fix it, but they're not going to be that fussy about the details of your plan ahead of time (the reason they let Nixon slip by with his "secret plan").

If Iraq recedes to a softer ache -- as it did before election day last year -- this is a far riskier strategy for Democrats. But as long as public support continues to go so far south, it's pretty much cost-free for Dems to do much beyond saying "Hey, what a disaster".

If (as so many expect) the housing bubble also bursts between now and '08 -- to say nothing of, if Fitzgerald returns meaningful indictments -- the Democrats can run a Marcel Marceau campaign and still make major gains.

Interesting point

By staying off stage, Democrats have kept the focus on whether Bush's strategy is working, not whether anyone else has a better idea. Instead of debating Democrats on Iraq, Bush is debating events.
I hadn't thought of it this way, but it is very similar to Bush's failed attempt to persuade the public that Social Security needs fixing.

The major risks to the Dems from not saying anything are first a hardening of the perception that the Dems have no solutions. Unlike Social Security, where defending and only tweaking the status quo is really the Dems' and public's position, with Iraq it is different. Defending and tweaking the status quo is BUSH's position, so saying nothing or not coming up with a new plan doesn't differentiate the Dems at all.

Second is the risk that Bush will adopt something like the Juan Cole plan after the vote on the Iraqi Constitution in October (assuming it happens and passes). Withdraw from the cities and residential areas, reduce the troops and hunker down to try to prevent Afghan-style open civil war and/or invasion by Iran. Withdraw 50,000 or so troops with promises of more before the '08 elections. If the Dems haven't said anything coherent by then, what is there to say? Extend tours and send in 50,000 non-existent troops? What a recipe for disaster.

Third, in answer to the post below about why Dems are so hawkish, I analogize it to the stock market, where the "bear" case always sounds so much more rigorous and serious, while the "bull" case sounds like wishful thinking, even though the bear case is often wrong. Hawkishness always sems to sound more serious, and they don't want to be thought of as not just wimps, but flabby thinkers.

One way out of the latter problem is to take a wholly new tack, such as Fareed Zakaria suggests (via Laura Rozen) and focus on one of Bush's real weaknesses, which is our lack of a commitment to reducing our dependence on foreign, particularly Middle East, oil. Point out that if we had gotten serious in 2001, we would have much more fuel efficient cars and SUVs available NOW, when we really need them. Instead we are facing war and gas lines. Again, though, the Dems need to get ahead on this one because the Bush Admin is about to announce a program for modest tightening of the fuel economy rules.

In short, precisely because the status quo isw Bush's Plan and really is untenable, the Dems do need to either coalesce around a plan like Cole's FIRST or at the very least shut up and don't criticize those who really are willing to stick their necks out and say that the Bush plan was flawed from the get go, going nowhere fast, and needs to be changed ASAP.

at the very least shut up and don't criticize those who really are willing to stick their necks out and say that the Bush plan was flawed from the get go, going nowhere fast, and needs to be changed ASAP.

I understand caution, but I don't understand the motivation for this. Unforgivable.

I am afraid too much emphasis is being put on a "Democratic Plan" when we have absolutely no power to execute anything -- plant a tulip for Next Spring on the Capitol lawn, much less lay out a foreign policy. To get out of that hole, we have to destroy enough of Bush and the Republican's power base in 06, and then we will be positioned to offer policy options.

You don't need an alternative to make the case that Bush has failed miserably -- and keep making that case around different issues so as to knock holes in his base of support. For instance, it looks like the Religious Right is very put out by the idea of an Islamic Republic as Bush's goal. Robertson, Dobson and Falwell apparently are not happy campers with that idea. (So we rub raw the sores of discontent for a time.) -- Was this the Noble Cause????

We've got to learn how to say, Well, the States and the Voters elected Bush and Republicans -- and thus it is their responsibility to deal with all this. Focus on Warner as Chair of the Armed Services Committee -- on Lugar as chair of Foreign Relations. They are Senior Majority Leaders -- and where are they? (And if you don't think they are providing leadership, then you have to vote for Democratic Senators in 06, and you'll perhaps get Levin as Chair.) In the meantime, it is Senate Republicans who have to take custody of their failing presidency. That needs to be our argument.

This started with FDR and his balanced budget campaign against Hoover -- a straw man if there ever was one. What FDR was in fact, was pragmatic. He had no particular ideology, but he was totally fixed on what might work. If things didn't work, he tried two additional fixes that sometimes contradicted each other. If those two didn't work as expected, he had four more ideas up his sleeve. And virtually none of his ideas came out of the Democratic Party -- Much of it came from the old Progressive wing of the Republican Party (Harold Ickes Sr for instance who was a long term friend of George Norris, Senator from Nebraska, who was a TR protegee -- and the Senator whom Chuck Hagle says he models himself on these days.) Other parts of it came from the Labor Movement -- and from the Social Welfare field (Francis Perkins and Harry Hopkins.) They were all pragmatists.

I'm not sure who Dem thought was unforgiveable--me or them? Criticizing those who criticize the war really is really poor strategy.

I agree the Dems don't have to have MUCH of a plan, but it can't be more of the same. It has to be based on the fact that the war was a lie, mismanaged and getting worse fast, AND is creating precisely the outcome we don't want, a theocracy that puts women back 100 years.

Mimkatz, I'm pretty sure (based on context and history) that DemfromCT was expressing unforgiveness not for you but for the attitude you were describing.

And I agree. Though we may differ on when and where the Dems need to come up with their own plan, the primary thing they cannot do is provide cover for Bush to bury his mistakes (something Biden seems to do with regularity, even when he thinks he's excoriating the president).

The most important goal for Dems over the next 1-3 years is to make sure Bush and the GOP own every ounce of this debacle. Spending time (a la Al From) tongue-lashing Democrats for insufficient patriotism -- at a time when well over 50% of Americans would be rated unpatriotic by From's standard -- is the precisely wrong approach.

What demtom said.

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