Undercut The GOP's Midterm Script Now, Then Offer Alternatives This Fall
If your approval on Iraq has fallen to only 29%, what do you do? Well, in this “we can talk our way out of anything” White House, you send the president on the road to a corporate luncheon to complain that the questions are taking too long, and to lie about what you said regarding Hussein and 9/11. Oh, and you would tell the country that things are going well in Iraq. That’s what W did today in Cleveland. Bush says the strategy in Iraq is working. He said this on a day when Baghdad International Airport was closed through tomorrow as a security precaution, and a day when fifteen more bodies were found, and eight Iraqi policemen were killed on the third anniversary of the invasion. Attacks continued throughout the country, which has seen no reconstruction to speak of, and which has less electricity, water, and sewer services than it did during Hussein’s days. And the handpicked man to be prime minister now says that Iraq is already in a civil war that could spread to Europe.
But why is Bush out there at all talking up Iraq? Because he is trying to stop his free fall in the polls so that it doesn’t reach a point where he is impotent. The fact that Bush sees a need to convince people to stick with him on Iraq three years after we “liberated” them tells you much about the real narrative for this November, a narrative that seemingly escapes our Democratic leadership in Congress. While the mainstream corporate media is continually feeding its own “Democrats are in disarray” storyline, the real story is that after being in total control of Washington for five years, and near total control for a decade, the GOP is on the ropes, and only the media is propping it up.
No matter what happy-talk Bush spews about Iraq, the GOP’s fate this fall is tied to the war and their unquestioning support of it and the rest of the Bush agenda these last five years. And the GOP knows it. Bush, for his part, is staying true to form in running from another mess of his creation. Sure, there will be permanent bases in Iraq to supposedly chase down Al Qaeda and provide air support for Iraqi security forces to suppress the insurgency. As outlined by the Post’s Jim Hoagland over the weekend, the Pentagon plans to withdraw out of the cities by the end of 2006, and let the Iraqi security forces deal with insurgents, with international forces ditching us. Yet this strategy assumes that the domestic security forces, already compromised by sectarian agendas and populated by militias, will be motivated to rein in their own. Not bloodly likely.
Yet Bush cannot admit that he is bailing on Iraq until after the 2006 election, because it would hang out to dry the GOP congress and undercut their whole rationale for staying in power. The GOP is trapped with Iraq around their necks, and they know it. But they are being told by the White House, with not a little bit of desperation in their voices, that they can’t abandon Bush either. So what does the GOP plan to do to feverishly hold onto power and win the fall election?
At a time when they feel adrift, the GOP will attempt one more time to motivate their base with phony votes on phony issues that bear little import to the real challenges facing this country. And there are numerous indications, even from Bob Novak, that the RNC and White House will tell GOP incumbents to ignore their own records, and instead make the contests about choices between a Democrat who wants to “raise your taxes and raise the white flag” in Iraq, and incumbents who fully support President Bush.
Perfect. This plays into the Democrats’ “rubber stamp” critique against the GOP incumbents in Congress, and reinforces a call for a new Congress to be an effective check and balance against a president with a 34% approval rating. If the GOP wants to tie themselves to a president with Nixonian approval ratings, swell. In short, the White House will force GOP incumbents to defend Bush and the war, while running on gay marriage, abortion, and the pledge of allegiance. Will Democrats be able to capitalize on the good fortune that is about to fall into their laps and push as many GOP incumbents into this political buzz saw as possible?
There are several ways to do so. First, don’t let them run away from their records. Hang every vote to give $1 trillion to Iraq around the necks of GOP incumbents, and specifically point out which GOP senators voted for the DeMint amendment last week to strip $1 trillion from Social Security, as we suggested. In fact, Chuck Schumer is planning on doing this. Remind voters over and over again which party wanted to destroy Social Security, and which party is trying to destroy Medicare.
Second, preempt the GOP by asking voters if they want this same crowd in Congress to rubber-stamp this White House into another war in Iran.
Third, ask the voters if they will be misdirected again into distractions about gay marriage, abortion, flag burning, faulty patriotism, taxes, and the pledge of allegiance while the GOP covers up its ineptitude, incompetence, detachment from Main Street, and raiding of the federal treasury for the privileged few?
Don’t kid yourselves; the GOP is scared about November, and they must resort once again to scaring the American Taliban to have any hope of keeping power. But the GOP is worrying about places like Florida this fall (and whack-job candidates that say “God made me run”), and they see signs that the economy will slow in the second half of this year, smack dab in the middle of the midterm elections, which is a recipe for an Iran war drive.
Democrats need to learn from their 2002 mistakes by preempting the GOP’s likely 2006 talking points on Iraq, taxes, and gays, by setting the negatives now. Just like they did successfully with Social Security last spring, it is critical for Democrats to undercut the GOP arguments now and ask the right questions of voters, before the GOP can establish the narrative within their corporate media. While the White House ties the fate of GOP incumbents to Bush, Democrats can knock the legs out from under the RNC’s “united we stand, divided we fall” campaign and strangle the GOP’s fall campaign in its crib.
Thanks to ThinkProgress for the image