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Friday, January 24, 2003

"I'm for it, with reservations" Or is it, "I'm against it, for now?" Whatever.

posts about the rhetorical fight being waged between Howard Dean and John Kerry over the Iraq resolution. I'm with Dean on this. Kerry's Iraq vote was disasterous, and all the more so because he didn't have to do it. He says he'll hold Bush's feet to the fire, but unfortunately, he has absolutely no power to do that so it sounds like so much weak political bullshit. Which it is.

The Red Staters who were facing shameful scumbags like Saxby Chambliss last November could be forgiven. But it was important to rank and file Democrats that their leaders (none of whom were facing tough re-election battles) understood how important this issue was to them and that they take a stand.

Every last Democratic presidential hopeful in the Senate took a dive.

It was a cowardly CYA-for-the-future-because-the-big-bad-Republicans-will-be-mean vote that took the starch right out of the Democratic base who made thousands of calls and wrote thousands of letters veritably begging the leading Dems to hold tough on this issue. Any Democratic electoral momentum leading up to the election hit a brick wall when they caved on the issue.

And we can thank the vaunted political strategists of Carville, Shrum and Greenberg for this incredible miscalculation:

According to the memo, the most effective argument for Democrats who oppose the war is one which "affirms one's commitment to wage the war against terrorism, including getting rid of Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but that questions the rush to war; it calls on the U.S. to seek U.N. and international support, others sharing costs and making sure we will achieve greater stability."

Nearly as strong, the memo argues, is explaining a no vote as a no "for now," and "stressing the need to go to the UN and try to get the inspectors back into Iraq and work to get the support of our allies."

That position, the memo notes, is strongest by far with "independents and with men (where the issue has more salience.)"

The least effective argument?

"Outright opposition to the war against Iraq and to the concept of regime change, finishing with the phrase, 'it is the wrong thing to do,' produces a weak response," they write.

Driving the point home, the memo points out that the poll found that a Democrat who opposes the war who simply argues that the policy is wrong loses by 15 points (39 percent to 54 percent) to a Republican who says he or she "trusts Bush to do this right."

Yeah. The politician who sounds the most like he's trying to have it both ways is always a big winner.

Carville,Greenberg and Shrum's post mortem of the election said:

In the end, 39 percent of the actual voters self-identified as Republicans, 3 percent more than in 2000 and 1998. The Democratic portion fell to 35 percent (down from 39 percent in 2000 and 37 percent in 1998). That alone could more than account for the shift witnessed at the polls. There was an even bigger increase in self-identified conservatives in the elector-ate, 41 percent, compared to approximately 30 percent two and four years ago.

How surprising.

Now, we are stuck with this absurd position of having to defend giving Junior a blank check while pretending that we are "influencing" the debate. And this happened, in my opinion, largely because some of the Democratic base was depressed by the craven behavior of its Senate leaders on the grave issue of whether to go to war.

I love Carville on Crossfire. He seems like a great guy. But, I have to wonder when the last time these three mythical Democratic strategists actually won any elections.

I lay the loss of the last one at their feet.