Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iraq Strategy for the Democrats

The last few days in the blogosphere has seen a veritable gusher of analysis and excellent advice, triggered by the twin issues of a tepid message by the Democrats and Bush's utter fuck up of his glorious little war. When the US Ambassador to Iraq, Khalilzad, is documenting that the place is falling apart (.pdf), the Democrats have got to work harder at making clear the costs of leaving the neocons in power, which means not being painted into a corner with the "cut and run" chant.

Here is a cross cut of the excellent posts available throughout the blogosphere:
And I'll end up with a quote from Josh from today:

In terms of domestic politics, this isn't that complicated. President Bush wants to stay in Iraq for at least three more years. Members of his party in Congress agree with him. They don't have a plan. That's where to make this argument because very few people in this country think we should keep our troops there for another three years with our current policy.

Moreover, getting suckered into a debate about deadlines for leaving Iraq is foolish, especially when President Bush has said on the record repeatedly that he plans to keep our troops in Iraq for the remainder of his presidency. He wants them there for at least three more years. What happens after that he'll leave to future presidents. This isn't what Democrats claim. This is what he says. He doesn't say he's willing to keep them there to achieve this or that aim. He's committed to keeping them there.

He doesn't have a plan for what to do in Iraq so he wants to keep troops there for the rest of his presidency. That's his plan: stay long enough that it becomes someone else's problem.

There are a few overall themes here that the Dems need to take seriously, either as talking poitns or as strategy points. The biggest one is that the Iraq war, like the Social Security debate, only seems like a winning issue for Bush. It isn't, and it won't take much to turn the debate.

Another, that Kerry made well, is they can sloganeer, too. "Lie and die" is powerful, particularly after the toture and murder of the two GI's by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Bush White House lied us into Iraq, and our people are dying there for no good reason. I know the commenters at Carpetbagger Report didn't like it, but I think it is pretty damn powerful - and cuts right to the heart of the matter. They LIED us into Bush's war. Their lies are killing people. Keep bringing the word "lie" into the conversation, because that is what they are.

The bigger message from Kerry is that there are probably several pithy phrases that Democrats of all stripes can keep using, especially for the TV soundbites. Redeploy and win. Change and win. Had enough? It's not working. Not the Iraq War - Bush's War. He broke it. You don't have to buy it. They should develop six or so catch phrases that can be repeated ad nauseum, until the reporters themselves start babbling them - just like they do with cut and run.

Bring in the scandals as specifically *war profiteering*. These guys aren't just making money. They are making money through military contracts and by sucking cash out of Homeland Security. Bush's War is making us less safe. Bush's War is robbing our soldiers of support while lining the pockets of the profiteers. We throw out our corrupt pols - in Bush's Forever War, they get rewarded for corruption and incompetance (Heck of a job, Brownie...).

Finally, make a virtue of necessity. There isn't "a" Democratic position on what is best to deal with Iraq, but there *is* consensus that sitting around with a finger (or spoon) up your nose and counting the days until you're out of office and it's somebody else's problem is no kind of answer. The message can be as simple as "We know that staying for three years and dumping the built up mess on the next guy isn't acceptable. They bluster - we're trying to make the hard decisions. We differ on the best way out because there are serious penalties to the US with any meaningful choice. They're just ducking the tough questions."

I have one recommendation for Democrats. Turn the situation around and give ordinary citizens a chance to say what they think should be done - and then make their answers known. The Rethugs don't dare ask the question openly because popular opinion is against them. Have real town halls and get the local press to cover them. WRITE THEM UP YOURSELF.

Blog them. Podcast them. RSS them. Christ on a crutch, you have Al Gore's cable channel just begging for videos. What about getting Young Turks or Crooks & Liars to host a few of the best? Get some cash and hire a few interns to do nothing but manage a "Citizens' Speak Out" web site with transcripts, videos, blogs and reports on getting the message FROM the people.

Hey, DLC, are you listening? DSCC? Howard Dean, here's away to get some young grassroots intereted - be Jimmy/Jenny Olson in your community, podcasting what the grassroots thinks about how to resolve Iraq. Viral news. People will tune in to see themselves on camera, or to see their neighbors and friends.

Rethuglicans have tilted the media towards themselves. Aggressively use the web as your lever for pulling the message machine back to the left. The majority of America is behind you.

Kevin Drum asks if big guns like Feingold and Kerry can be brought on board to support consensus that Bush's direction is wrong. I think Kerry's appearance on Imus says yes.


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