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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

So, How Did the President Do Last Night?

Pretty poorly, in my judgement. You can read my reaction and that a number of other interesting folks in this compilation at Salon.com.
Here’s the first few paragraphs of my comment, in case you don’t have a Salon sub (get one!). But the compilation as a whole is well worth reading, if you have access.
President Bush’s speech, whose purpose was to rally public opinion in favor of his Iraq policy, proposed no change of course and no timeline for concluding U.S. involvement. Indeed, with the exception of bulldozing the Abu Ghraib prison, Bush offered absolutely no new ideas on how to deal with the huge difficulties the U.S. currently confronts in Iraq. Instead, he appeared to be relying on a strategy of looking stern and determined, saying that “the terrorists cannot be allowed to win” and comparing the American vision of “liberty and life” with the terrorists’ vision of “tyranny and murder.” If that all sounds familiar, it’s because Bush has been striking the same poses and saying the same things — to decreasing effect — ever since the U.S. invaded Iraq, and, in fact, considerably before it.
This is not likely to be an effective strategy. The public has turned increasingly negative on the war in Iraq and, more broadly, on Bush’s conduct of the war on terrorism. Simply asserting that we’re doing the right thing and we must continue to do it is not going to turn those negative views around. Instead, since the public believes that the current course in Iraq is not containing, much less resolving, the very serious problems, proposing a change from that course was the only plausible way to turn public opinion in his direction.
That is exactly what Bush failed to do and why we may reasonably expect that public opinion will not turn in his favor. And public opinion now is remarkably negative.

34 comments on “So, How Did the President Do Last Night?

  1. NeoFascist? on

    Aw, heck Jeff. I had tennis drills and several e-mails to respond to. School interferes with my blog commenting too. Sometimes I’m just too busy to respond.

  2. Jeff on

    I think neofascist has left the building.
    You know what? I’m proud of us dems. We’re getting our stuff together. I remember a time when a Republican would come along and spew nonsense and we would just go crazy. Now it doesn’t even make us flinch.
    That should tell you a lot about what’s going on.

  3. Marcus Lindroos on

    >>Many reasonable people would argue that the cost
    >>to the U.S. has been way too high, though.
    > Yes, but the price is nothing we can’t handle if we
    > eliminate some unnecessary spending (which we
    > have in abundance).
    Actually, I didn’t have the financial cost in mind when I wrote that sentence. We also have the human cost to thousands of American families, all for no good reason. Dying for one’s country in Afghanistan while hunting for Al Qaeda terrorists is one thing. Violating the U.N. Charter by attacking a country that wasn’t even indirectly related to 9/11 seems like a stupid and unnecessary move, though. The war has increased domestic as well as international tension as a direct result. At home, Democrats and Republicans get along even less well than they did before this divise and controversial war started. Abroad, the United States is probably less popular than it has ever been as a result of the Iraq invasion.
    Neofascist, you can talk derisively about Democratic traitors, Old European wimps, corrupt U.N. officials, Islamofascists and proclaim the only “true Americans” are the 50% who love “Shrub”. But you still need our support if you want to win the War on Terror. Your guy in the White House has now poisoned the wells so thoroughly, it is difficult to see how the West could rally around the United States unless there is “regime change” at home.

  4. Jeff on

    Unfortunately neofascist seems to believe that the reason the American people spend $400 billion + every year on a military is to oust “brutal dictators.” National interest be damned.
    Consider this neo, we will have spent close to $200 billion on Iraq by the end of this year. We not only failed to discover the presense of any WMD’s, but we also failed to find any connection with terrorism. The purpose for “The War on Terrorism” in the first place.
    $200 billion may not seem like a lot of money to you neo, but it represents nearly $1,000 for every man, woman and child in America. A family of four has ponied up nearly $4,000 in less than two years. I’m sure most people would be willing to spend such money if it actually related to the issue of terrorism or even national interest. But to justify the expense of this war, in dollars, men and American prestige because we wanted to be rid of a two-bit dictator is not good policy. It’s stupid. There are other two-bit dictators worldwide. Do you suggest we make such sacrifices for them as well? If not, WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT!
    Laura above was right. The war in Iraq was nothing more than a group masterbation exercise by the neo-con faction of the Republican Party. They were in control. They had the control of the levers of US foreign policy and military. They didn’t like Saddam. They wanted him gone. Voila, he’s gone. Damn the consequences. Damn those who don’t agree.
    Containment was working. But containment, as George F. Kennan once wrote, requires “patience.” But patience is something these idiots don’t seem to have. The logic for their invasion, as well as the National Security Strategy of the United States (Bush Doctrine) is that we have the power, no one can stop us. Therefore, let’s do what we want. But as the war in Iraq has demonstrated there are consequences to that philosophy.
    The war in Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism, WMDs, national interest, or even those poor people in Iraq, it happened because the neo-cons have a lazy approach to foreign affairs.
    America is now paying for that laziness.

  5. Lawrence on

    I think we would all agree that the goal in Iraq is admirable. Democrats are worried that it might not be possible. We are suffering now from the original naivete of the administration as to the difficulty involved and the preparation needed. Things would be different if the administration had asked us for the level of committment that we now see is necessary. But of course hindsight is always 50/50. It worries me that we don’t seem to be making any progress in regards to the guerrilla warfare mode we find ourselves in. Kerry has vowed to try to make it work.

  6. NeoFascist? on

    >>”Many reasonable people would argue that the cost to the U.S. has been way too high, though.”
    Yes, but the price is nothing we can’t handle if we eliminate some unnecessary spending (which we have in abundance).
    You’re right, Iraq is fundamentally different because of its religion. Most of the people there are happy that Saddam is gone, but Saddam had a band of loyalists who will not give up until they are captured or killed.
    Here’s something you might not know: a secret memo was found in the wreckage of a high ranking Iraqi officials office, detailing the resistance against Americans if Saddam was captured. This memo has been followed by the loyalists, and the loyalists will not be pacified by anything other than Saddam’s return to power (or the rise to power of one of their own).
    Iraq is fundamentally different than Germany, but it can’t be rebuilt in a day. The pacification of militant loyalists, though preferable to the fighting, is not a possibility.

  7. Marcus Lindroos on

    Dear Neofascist:
    > Rather, I tend to rejoice that a brutal dictator is out of power.
    Many reasonable people would argue that the cost to the U.S. has been
    way too high, though.
    > Do you think that Germany was just rebuilt in a few months?
    No, but at least the place was pacified in a few months at most. Maybe Iraq is fundamentally different? Maybe “liberty” and “democracy” cannot be forced upon an Islamist nation at gunpoint?

  8. NeoFascist? on

    You call a democratic republic a corrupt dictatorship?! While calling a corrupt communist dictatorship a friend and trading partner?!
    That’s insane.
    You say we had no reason to fight. That’s awfully selfish of you; racist, even. Freedom is for us, but the Vietnamese aren’t good enough to have the same liberties we enjoy? No person in his right mind would give his support to a communist dictatorship, given communism’s obvious tendencies to bring poverty. You are advocating the placement of the Vietnamese into worse conditions than the black people were living under during segregation, or even slavery.
    As for your statements that I love killing, that’s quite absurd (I think I’m sensing a pattern in your statements). How else was Vietnam to stay free? Were we to ask the Communists over crumpets and tea to kindly leave? It simply doesn’t work that way against brutal dictators. If the Commies want to kill people, they should be fought.
    You accuse me of wanting to kill for power over someone else. Actually, I wanted to stop the Commies from killing people for could have power over someone else. If they have to be stopped in a military conflict, so be it.
    You say that what one fights for and how one fights is of utmost importance. We fought for liberty; I can’t see anything wrong with that. We fought with honor (especially compared to the Viet Cong); do you find fault in that?
    We didn’t fight for vanity; that’s what the Communists did. America fought against the very thing you decry.
    Your whole comment was completely absurd. I will gladly debate anyone on this blog, and will do so in a friendly and civil manner. However, your post was entirely illogical and rather hateful. Please give a little more thought to your next post.

  9. laura on

    You can’t win when you have no reason to fight. What Neofascist wants is nothing more than the ego gratification of using killing as a means of imposing power over someone else. Yes if we had killed enough people (one million civilians wasn’t enough) we could have “won”. But what would we have gained? A corrupted dictatorship with no domestic support would have been inflicted on the VietNamese. Great . Wonderful accomplishment. When we lost the North took over, created a government that was not democrtic but did have quite a bit of domesic support. That government is now our friend and trading partner.
    So it is stupid to talk about how we could have won. War isn’t football. In war what you fight for and how you fight is of the utmost importance. We “lost ” VietNam because most Americans are not immoral enough to keep killing year after year for sheer vanity.

  10. NeoFascist? on

    Unfortunately, I haven’t studied Nixon in detail. From what I have heard from Democrats and Republicans alike, I tend to think that Nixon was a sorry excuse for a president and for a conservative.
    We had the chance to win in Vietnam right after the Tet Offensive. The North Vietnamese had exausted their men and resources and if we had attacked them at that weak moment, as many of the generals wanted to, we could have defeated them. However, limited warfare demanded that we wait for authorization before any activity, and the North Vietnamese military recovered.

  11. dsquared on

    Hmmm … the two 47s actually drag up the moving average on the approval rating, don’t they? Kerry’s been doing very well at the Iowa Electronic Markets (he’s on 0.493), but my guess is that he tops out there. My guess is that we should be looking for a couple of polls giving Bush approval >50 in the pretty near future; I’d agree with Ruy that the long-term momentum is looking pretty sick for Bush, but things appear to have overextended themselves on the downside for the near term.

  12. Lawrence on

    “restricted by limited warfare”
    Obviously, you haven’t been talking to any servicemen or military experts.
    “The Conflict was unwinnable under Kennedy policies.”
    Half of the approximately 8 year Vietnam war (1965 – 1973) was fought under Lyndon Johnson (a democrat), and half was fought under Richard Nixon (a republican). Nixon tried widening the war by bombing Laos and Cambodia (those are two other countries bordering Vietnam). It didn’t make much difference and Nixon eventually signed a cease-fire. About 58,000 american soldiers died there.
    Military historians usually cite lack of support for our goals by the vietnamese population as the main reason for our losing the war. Vietnam in the 20th century had fought the French, the Japanese, the French a second time, and finally the U.S. before driving out all foreigners from its soil after 50 years of struggle…
    “the Kennedy administration’s policy of limited warfare”

  13. NeoFascist? on

    >>”When I worked for the Army, I found out that they all knew that the Vietnam war was unwinnable.”
    The Vietnam Conflict (war was never declared) was winnable if we hadn’t been restricted by limited warfare. Many important targets weren’t attacked or weren’t attacked fast enough because of the Kennedy administration’s policy of limited warfare. The Conflict was unwinnable under Kennedy policies.

  14. Lawrence on

    “If the liberals would stop trying to backseat drive in this war, it wouldn’t be a quagmire.”
    This is getting to look like the Rottweiler blog. The above excuse is pitiful. When I worked for the Army, I found out that they all knew that the Vietnam war was unwinnable.
    Whatever you think of the justification of the war, the execution of it (except for the excellent job done by the armed forces) was massively and shockingly incompetant.
    As a consequence, the Bush administration has created a political miracle: the entire american armed forces brass and most of the soldiers are pissed off purple in the face at a republican administration.

  15. NeoFascist? on

    It’s simply madness to think that we should pull out of Iraq and expect it to be rebuilt by July. Other countries take years to rebuild.

  16. BlindedByHatred on

    July 1 could be the day that sinks Dubya.
    That’s the day after the supposed handover of sovereignty. I suspect there are a good many people out there who still cling to the notion that June 30 is really going to be Mission Accomplished Day, meaning we start getting out of Iraq after that.
    When they discover after 6/30 that nothing’s going to change they won’t be happy campers.
    Not in the slightest.

  17. NeoFascist? on

    If the liberals would stop trying to backseat drive in this war, it wouldn’t be a quagmire. Limited warfare doesn’t work, especially against terrorists. It didn’t work against the Viet Cong and it won’t work against the radical Muslims.
    Actually, the quagmire that you refer to is nonexistent. Do you think that Germany was just rebuilt in a few months? Even after years of tyranny? These things take time, and for a people such as the Iraqis, it may take even longer, since we have the added threat that Sharia law may take over. The military needs to be allowed to attack the people who are working against democracy. Currently in Iraq, if a soldier sees an Iraqi militant walking by with a rocket launcher, the soldier can’t do anything about it. Our soldiers can’t fire unless fired upon. This policy won’t lead to victory, as victory can’t come unless we allow ourselves to win.

  18. soup nazi on

    No, the opinion I’m refering to was more Oedipal – Saddam had to go. You can rejoice, but the changing rationalization and the resulting quagmire is noting to crow about.

  19. NeoFascist? on

    What does this have to do with Saddam?
    Here’s how I feel about the link you posted: I can’t say that I support taxpayer money going to oil companies, but it should help keep gas prices down. The companies won’t have to compensate for security increases with price increases. However, taxpayer money to private organizations is not, in my opinion, a good thing. I am not well educated on economics yet.

  20. NeoFascist? on

    Honestly, I don’t understand Bush’s insistence that there were WMDs either (I assume that this is the opinion you are referring to). I believe that there were WMDs, but I personally don’t give a rip about them. Rather, I tend to rejoice that a brutal dictator is out of power. I don’t see why we are obsessing over WMDs when the psycho who was going to use them is out of commission.

  21. soup nazi on

    Bush on the other hand has got only one opinion. And he’s gonna keep it in the face of all contravening reality (see post #1).

  22. NeoFascist? on

    I’m frightened by the prospect of Kerry as president. He can’t keep an opinion long enough to order food at a restaurant, much less lead a country.

  23. Clem Cadiddlehopper on

    I’m not sure what’s scarier — (a) Dumbya & Co. cynically believing that there are a large number of people who will change their minds simply because he makes a speech or (b) the fact that there actually are people like that.

  24. dean on

    I missed it. Did he mention my name?
    All the reports I have heard said he didn’t say anything new. I keep hoping he’ll have something new and innovative. Seriously. I mean, I am opposed to his re-election, but I am really hoping, for the good of the country, that he can come up with a solution to at least one problem that he and his crew have created.

  25. Mencken on

    agreed, many americans will desperately cling to bush’s repackaged failures. I’m just amazed that more major daily editorials weren’t harsher in their judgement.
    hopefully, as pointed out above, the facts will out and americans will finally be forced to acknowledge what a disaster this presidency has been.
    but I still wonder if part of bush’s success—indeed much of the GOP’s success—stems from this: bush encourages the worst traits in our national character—chauvinism, bigotry, anti-intellectualism—-and then validates them.
    and I’m not sure how much that’ll change b/t now and november.

  26. Lawrence on

    We have no prospect of american troops leaving Iraq anytime soon. As long as they are there they’ll get shot at. In Vietnam, we were propping up a corrupt government. In Iraq, we haven’t even got that far.
    Frankly, I can’t see why W would even want to win a second term.

  27. C. Ama on

    I don’t think Bush will receive a bump in the polls from last night’s speech, short-term or otherwise.
    Even Bush’s most sycophantic supporters gave the speech a measured, lukewarm response at best. A Dubya shock-trooper like Tom Delay could only manage to describe the speech as “… an honest report on the present and a detailed plan for the future.”
    Of course, the speech was nothing of the sort. It was not honest. Bush merely repeated the same hoary war-on-terror cliches, desperately conflating 9/11 with the supposed threat of (non-existent) Iraqi WMDs. Nor, was it a detailed plan for the future. It was the same list of broad, hopeful generalities we have been hearing from Bush since this deadly nonsense began. The only difference is the degree to which Bush’s speeches have degenerated from deluded optimism to grim obstinacy.
    The American people might be dumb enough to believe that Saddam was behind 9/11, but so far they haven’t demonstrated enough stupidity for me to think they will believe that Bush has anything resembling an idea of what to do about Iraq.
    By the way, did anybody notice that the backdrop for this speech was the US Army War College crest? This, instead of one of the administration’s patented theme banners. I expected something like “Strength and Resolve,” or “Staying the Course,” or “Eyes on the Prize (okay, not really).” But, the Bush team can’t even seem to muster the enthusiasm for the usual tricks. It’s almost as if they wonder why they should bother. They know nobody’s going to buy it, but they’re willing to keep going through the motions because, “what the hell, we’re on the clock.” It’s almost as if they’ve given up, and are just trying to leave a beautiful corpse when they go.
    Good riddance.

  28. Lawrence on

    At the last press conference, W had some good moments. Not last night – a yawner. The stupid thing is that the most effective thing W can do to pull his butt out of the fire is get on TV and make like Dirty Harry. And the really stupid thing is that to win this election, Kerry is going to have to do exactly the same thing.

  29. controller on

    TOmtom is dead on. I don’t believe the bumps will be anything to concern any of us. they will be short lived and, if all my expectations are met concerning his speech delivery, Bush will continue to look like a deer in the headlights which will not translate well with the public. It will only translate to uncertainty.

  30. tomtom on

    The speech will give Bush a bump. There are a lot of folks who want to believe in him, who will grasp at anything he can toss their way. These people turn against him with great reluctance.
    However, to keep these people he will need results. A lot rides on whether Iraq melts down before or after the election.
    My guess is Iraq will melt down quickly. The stupidity and ideological rigidity at the top is deep, and it does not make for smart policy on the ground.
    Iraqis don’t want pseudo-sovereignty, and this Administration will try to make pseudo-sovereignty fly. Iraqis are not susceptible to Bush’s deceptions.
    In short, a bump, and a bigger one at the so-called transfer of sovereignty, but they will be tentative, and unlikely to last until November.


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