Get Ready For The Next Pre-Election Misdirection Play: Iran
If you want a heads-up as to what Bush will do next to get elected this fall, look back to a similar time in 2002 during the midterm elections. Remember those days in August?
Congress was on its summer recess, and Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt did nothing during the summer months to establish the negatives on Bush’s record to date. Even though Bush’s approval ratings on domestic issues were poor, Daschle/Gephardt did nothing to take advantage of those concerns by voters to spin a message during the vacuum caused by the president’s summer vacation that year that Bush had done little about domestic problems and had already broken many campaign commitments. Sure, it was less than a year after 9/11, but voters were already telling pollsters that they wanted action on other issues as well. But did Daschle/Gephardt take advantage of the August recess to ramp up a coordinated message on Bush’s domestic failings and establish the fall midterm campaign on terms and issues favorable to the Democrats?
No. So Rove came back from the recess relieved and quickly rolled out the Iraq war drive, and also used the homeland security department club against the Democrats to own the agenda right up until the drubbing in November. Democrats never got a chance to argue their issues because they never told voters a coordinated message about Bush’s failings and what they would do differently. Instead they got caught flat-footed for the new product roll-out in September joked about by Andy Card.
Fast forward two years. Bush’s re-elect and domestic issue numbers are poor. Iraq is on the verge of getting worse not better. It is August. You do the math.
Here’s my prediction. This year’s homeland security department club will be the Porter Goss CIA director vote. If Democrats move to block it, Rove will hammer them for not protecting our national security at this critical time.
This year’s Iraq will be Iran. Mark my words. You don’t think so? Consider the following.
Suddenly the Bush Administration is very concerned about an Iranian nuclear program that has been under development for years. Today there was this quote from a State Department official, in an eerily Andy Cardian way:
"Iran is going to be the 800-pound gorilla of American foreign policy come September," said a State Department official.
Now we’re not talking about a war in September or even an invasion by American forces, but we are talking about Bush moving the subject from Iraq to the “new” crisis of Iran. You’ll hear “all Iran, all the time” come September, with the message that only Bush is the steady stable hand who can be tough enough to get these WMDs out of another member of the Axis of Evil. Kerry will have to be ready for this, and can even preempt this with talk of his own that Bush should have focused on Iran instead of Iraq after Afghanistan, thereby beating Bush and Rove to the punch.
Secondly, there was discomforting talk today from three provinces in Southern Iraq that they wanted to separate from the Allawi regime in Baghdad and go their own way, due to the harsh crackdown imposed by Allawi with American help. Since these provinces contain the Southern Oil Company pipeline in Basra, and are close to Iran, you can see how Allawi and Bush cannot let this ever happen, since Iraq would then lose control of its only southern pipeline route to the sea. Plus, as the folks over at the This Is Rumor Control blog note, the Bushies are convinced that Tehran is backing and arming the Shia uprising in the south, and the Iranians are confirming that they stand with Shias who have been oppressed since the US occupation. The Bushies will see all of this as an Iranian-inspired effort to take control of Southern Iraq and the pipelines themselves.
Would the Bush Administration attack the militias in Southern Iraq before the election, even possibly go over the border to stop the suspected Iranian support of incoming insurgents into Iraq from Iran, all in the name of protecting the Iraqi oil supply and the nascent Iraqi independent state from “terrorists”? Would Bush and Karl trot out another misdirection play and grab this issue before the election to get domestic issues off the front page and play to what they think Bush’s advantages are against Kerry?
If 2002 is any guide, you can expect it. And so should Kerry. Here comes the Iran “new product”, and Kerry needs to set the negatives on Bush now, pointing out that the administration blew it by going after the wrong country and now finds its assumptions about regional stability stemming from a toppling of Hussein to be naïve and stupid.
If he doesn’t, he’ll get caught flat-footed just like Gephardt and Daschle did, unable to get his message out in the remaining weeks of the campaign when we are subjected to “all Iran, all the time.”