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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

WWRD? And Other GOP Follies

I don’t know how many of you watched the Republican presidential debate last night. It wasn’t just bad (and it was adjudged as bad by Republicans as well); it was surreal. Perhaps it was the bizarre presence of Air Force One looming over the candidates, hunched as they were over a table at the Ronald Reagan presidential library. Maybe it was the ghostly presence of Reagan himself, which seemed to grip the candidates and questioners alike. Indeed, the theme of the entire debate was “WWRD?”
Amidst all the inane and idolatrous babbling about the 40th president (at one point Mitt Romney said “Ronald Reagan” so many times in rapid succession that he sounded like he had forgotten himself and fallen into a chant or even a prayer), there was something of a debate that nicely illustrated the odd world of the Republican “base.”
The key juncture was the bicker-fest between McCain and Romney over the former’s allegation that the latter had once uttered the accursed word “timetables” in connection with our glorious march towards total victory in Iraq. After fifteen minutes of this stuff, Ron Paul had to jump in and remind them that they were equally out of touch with reality on the larger issue of the war, and shouldn’t waste time fighting over who said what when. Perhaps lost in the crossfire was the fact that both Romney and Huckabee passed up a clear opportunity to express some slight concern over McCain’s infamous “100 years” statement on how long our troops might need to stay in Iraq.
If you are one of those people who worry about insufficient partisan differentiation, take a long look at the Iraq debate on the campaign trail. Among the Democratic candidates, nobody disputes that the Iraq War was a boneheaded disaster that needs to be ended quickly; instead, they argue over their earler positions and what that says about their judgment. Until Bill Richardson got out of the race, they argued some about small residual troop deployments. Among the Republican candidates (except for Paul, of course), the Iraq War was a fully justified response to 9/11 and Islamofascism; we’re winning the war now, thank God and Petraus; but just in case, let’s have permanent bases and keep troops there forever. Can’t repeat that Vietnam “cut and run,” can we?
Since the general public’s a lot more in line with the Democratic than with the Republican perspective on Iraq, I do hope as many of them as possible were watching that debate last night. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something a bit disturbing about the spectacle of an old white man–the probable nominee–baiting another white man for being a wussie about the war as they sit around in a giant aircraft hanger.

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