Monday, December 15, 2003

Defining victory

William Saletan knows a little something about prematurely calling a presidential election. He very prominently wrote an article in late 2000 saying that "Bush was toast". He is now warning his colleagues not to make the same mistake with respect to Dean, especially since the Governor seems to understand precisely how Bush managed to run against and defeat a successful administration:

[...] You dissolve the successes into history and ask what the administration has accomplished with those successes. You move the goalpost.

Dean seems to understand. "Our troops are to be congratulated on carrying out this mission with the skill and dedication we have come to know of them," he said this morning. "This development provides an enormous opportunity to set a new course and take the American label off the war. We must do everything possible to bring the U.N., NATO, and other members of the international community back into this effort. Now that the dictator is captured, we must also accelerate the transition from occupation to full Iraqi sovereignty."

Notice how Dean repeats every element of the 2000 Bush approach. Somebody other than the president—in this case, our troops—gets the credit. The mission becomes history. Capturing Saddam becomes a means to a more difficult end: getting the United Nations into Iraq, and getting the United States out.

I also noticed Dean's ascribing of the capture of Saddam to the troops and specifically not to Bush. I hadn't noticed that Dean, at the same time, moved the goal-posts for defining what success means. Sweet!

Dean seems to understand, better than any other Democratic politician today, that he who defines what "victory" means is the one who will eventually achieve it.


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