Once Again, Democrats Can Move To Bush's Right On National Security
In my post below on how the Democrats need to fire up the Truth Squad now and keep Bush from controlling the message these next 30 days, commenter Mush mentioned that Democrats should not take their eyes off of national security, since we know that Rove plans to run the “fear and smear” campaign again this fall as the only reason to keep the GOP in power. Mush is correct of course, and I am not advocating that Democrat ignore national security, but they need to get their hooks into the media narrative during 2006 so that they can compete effectively this fall. And this is as much about tactics as it is about message.
As for the message and national security, let me say something that I have said before during the 2004 campaign, which was amplified again last night when Bush did his Woodrow Wilson impersonation and talked in a muddle about terrorists and democracy. It is an important point that Newsweek Online’s Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey made again today in their great piece. Put simply, I don’t give a rat’s ass about democracy in the Islamic world right now or about this country’s supposed obligation to nation-build across the globe. All I care about, and all Democrats should care about, is capturing and killing where necessary terrorists who are a threat to this country.
Despite the flowery talk from Bush about spreading democracy, the war on terror is about dealing with a specific threat and the tactics used in those threats; it is not, as Bush would like it, about a years-on-end campaign to remake the world’s regions in our image. Bush, Cheney, and Halliburton of course want this to morph from a “get Bin Laden” effort into a “spread democracy around the world” effort because that entails an unending war on a tactic (terror) whose length and definition of success is left to the executive branch to decide. Contrarily, getting Bin Laden and destroying Al Qaeda by working with cooperative countries to disrupt their support networks and financing, through Special Forces rather than regime changing occupying armies is a more under-the-radar but quantifiable effort that doesn’t allow the executive branch to dictate its length, necessary resources, or evaluate its success and patriotism of those pursuing accountability in a vacuum. It requires results, not platitudes, and such an approach as Wolffe and Bailey said today, and we said back in 2004, allows the Democrats to use the Wilsonian delusion that Rove has instilled into Bush’s conflicted and shallow brain and actually move to Bush’s right on national security.
And it happens to be what John Kerry advocated back in 2004, which the media ignored to focus on him being an alleged “flip-flopper” and unworthy of medals that Bush and Cheney could never dream of, or had the guts to obtain on their own.
Representative Jane Harman, who is the Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee, is firing up an effort to help Democrats refocus their message on national security, and I hope this is part of that effort. Quite simply, Democrats should tell voters that destroying Al Qaeda and impeding those than mean us harm must be our immediate national security strategy, and not nation building or Bush’s delusions of Wilsonian grandeur.
Capture and kill the terrorists? Yes. But occupation and nation building? No. Bring the Guard back home to protect the homeland; spend the money to protect the ports, rail lines, chemical and nuclear plants, and other infrastructure; get radios that all first responders can use; and get a public health and early warning system here at home that won't keep our professionals awake at night. Overseas, work regionally with cooperative states on counter-terror campaigns using our Special Forces and Air Force, and even accept help from those we normally would shun but who are offering help nonetheless in exchange for other considerations. And yes, that in the past included Syria and Iran. And if a country doesn't play ball or is harboring or financing Al Qaeda and we and our allies can prove that, then any president has the option of preemptively dealing with that. There is no rocket science here, but there is no need for regime-changing wars of liberation out of PNAC's playbook either. Bluntly put, countries want respect and in some cases want financial help and other considerations from us. Get over the fact that you don't like who you have to deal with, but just use whatever help you can get to destroy the 9/11 attackers while getting accountability from our supposed friends who supported and bankrolled them.
Democracy can wait until we are in a better position to lecture others about what it means, which after the last five years we certainly are not now. This isn’t supposed to be about Bush’s messianic zeal or getting his face on Rushmore. It was supposed to be about getting Mr. Dead or Alive and crippling Al Qaeda and those who support them, while leading by example rather than at the end of a gun barrel.