Starting The Debate On National Security For This November
There has been much talk over the last couple of days about the release of a Democratic national security plan, outlining the party’s positions for the fall election. You can read the plan here, and there is a vigorous debate in the center-left blogosphere about how effective this plan is. What is important to remember is that any plan released now is intended to be the basis for the talking points used by Democratic candidates this fall in challenging vulnerable GOP incumbents, so this plan by nature needs to be legitimate and broad-based enough to have the support of some red-state Democrats. This document appears to pass that test.
What is noteworthy is that the release of the document received decent media coverage yesterday from the Post. The Los Angeles Times’ Ron Brownstein wrote a piece that complained about the lack of detail in the Democratic plan. Mr. Brownstein, when was the last time the Bush Administration was held to that same standard by you in any of their tortured statements about Iraq? Brownstein wrote a horse race story, devoid of political thinking, wherein he showed his true colors as someone who wanted the Democrats to make a mistake yesterday so that he could have days of material writing up the GOP's pushback.
Brownstein slams the Democrats for not putting forward a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. For a national political reporter who supposedly is one of the best there is, Brownstein is remarkably stupid about this. What incentive does the party have for specifically putting forward timetables for withdrawal that go beyond what even Murtha has proposed, or setting forward specifics that red-state Democratic candidates could not run on this November? Why would Democrats put forward specifics that would give ammo to GOP critics that Democrats are undercutting Bush as Commander in Chief? As the Post’s Chris Cillizza noted today, that the strategic goal of Democrats for the fall is to achieve parity with the GOP on national security, not to make story board material for Fox News, and therefore to neutralize the GOP’s previous advantages on the issue. Saying something this early that can provide the GOP once again with months of talking points against the Democrats as being weak on Iraq and national security is not wise. Despite Brownstein’s stupidity, the document and its rollout achieve their intended purpose, as indicated by how concerned the GOP was yesterday in trying to undercut its release. The goal between now and November is to neutralize Bush's advantages on national security and make him defend Iraq, while blasting him on turf favorable to Democrats.
Look, as we’ve said before, as far as 2006 is concerned and for that matter the next three years, the voters have already made their minds up on Bush: he’s done. Democrats need to attack the GOP rubber stamp Congress as we said months ago, and as Jane and Christy are now arguing over at FireDogLake. Democrats need to make the case to voters this fall that a new Congress with more Democrats is necessary to become a real check and balance over the moribund cabal in the Executive Branch. Recent polls have shown that voters want the Democrats in Congress to be in charge of policy, not the Bush Administration. The best way to do that at this stage is to set the negatives on the rubber stamp GOP congress, and their pursuit of private gain over public interest. Later, and as we get closer to November, more specific arguments will be introduced as to what Democrats will do differently, while the RNC pleads for GOP incumbents to tie themselves to the stern of the Bush Titanic. But to put out a document on national security now that undermines that whole approach is illogical, and Brownstein should know better.