Wednesday, May 07, 2003

How to tackle Bush on foreign policy

There's an interesting article over on Salon by Eric Boehlert about the GOP's "luck" in latching on to the war on terror. Today, in Rove's the hands, the permanent war on terrorism is like a political gold mine. "Everything, including a war, is a potential campaign event for Karl," says James Moore, coauthor with Wayne Slater of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential." "He has great a skill at keeping messages simple and accessible. And the message today is the war and economy are wrapped up in security, that there's unfinished business with the war on terrorism and why would you change commander in chief in the middle of war? It's a helluva salable message." It's a depressingly true fact of life that the Bushies have a political goldmine in the war on terror. Anytime the heat starts to turn up on any other matter all they have to do is go "Boo!" and enough of the electorate will reflexively pull Bush's lever to easily guarantee him another four years. It's going to be difficult if not impossible for any Democrat to overcome that advantage. Even John Kerry won't have it easy. Some Democratic strategists are saying that only someone with Kerry's military background stands a chance of challenging Bush on his "protecting America from the bad men" position. But I say that even the most decorated of soldiers would not be enough to overcome Bush's advantage on this point. The Democrats cannot challenge Bush directly on his foreign policy because, as long as it continues to work, the people will support it. Attacking the policy when it is a success will just make those who support him think that they are being attacked themselves. That will make the defensively tighten their support. No, what is needed to address this problem is an entirely different approach. What the Democrats need to do is make an issue of the very thing that this article is talking about: the politicization of fear. They need to make the heart of the campaign be Bush's attempts to exploit the fear generated by 9/11 for political purposes. They need to put one thought and one thought alone into people's heads: Bush is more interested in scaring us into voting for him than he is in actually protecting us. The recent tut-tuts about the carrier photo-op are a good example of how this can be done. Rove was really blatant in his political exploitation of this event and even Bush supporters have had to acknowledge this. The Democrats started to whisper about it whenever they could and then, when it started to look bad for Bush in the media, brought out Robert Byrd to positively HAMMER Bush for the exploitation of America's fighting men and women . Note to any of the campaigns watching: there is the germ of a winning strategy here. You first need to attack the high-esteem which Bush has in the eyes of so many Americans. If you can repeatedly demonstrate that this administration is willing to use the military as a backdrop for its perpetual campaign then you can increase the disgust level people will have in reaction to this. Eventually it will reach a point where people will begin to question the foreign policies themselves. It is at that moment when you sweep in with a "there is another way" campaign. We need to make people squirm at the idea of voting for Bush again.


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