Friday, December 19, 2003

You want to know why Democrats lose?

Just read this comment from Leon Panetta in today's NY Times:

"It's not just Dean, but all of the candidates who ran against the war in Iraq are going to be weakened by the events of the last few days," said Leon Panetta, chief of staff in the Clinton White House. "For Dean in particular, it makes it even more imperative that he has to make an adjustment in terms of his positions so he's not viewed as weak on national security."

Mr. Panetta, listen carefully to what I have to say. Weak politicians follow the mood of the country. Strong politicians change the mood of the country.

That is what Dean is attempting to do. By strongly asserting that capturing Saddam has not made America safer he is attempting to wrestle control of the dialog away from the Republicans. What Bush and Rove want more than anything else is for people to believe that Hussein's capture has made America safer, regardless of whether it has or not. They are trying to change the mood to match their political goals. Democrats like Panetta are saying we should go along with the attempt.

What Panetta doesn't understand is that Dean's position is in the mainstream of American thought. The CBS poll I pointed out yesterday says 78% of voters say that Saddam's capture has not made us any safer (some even say it has made us less safe). And what does the Times article say about the opinion of Americans?

[...]  The latest New York Times poll showed that the capture improved Americans' view of President Bush and his handling of the war but also that 60 percent said the United States was as vulnerable to terrorist attack as before the capture.

Dean's argument since the beginning has been that the Iraq war was a distraction in the war on terrorism. It is the heart of his argument that Bush is weak on foreign policy. Bush can win this fight only if he can convince the voters that Iraq was an essential part of that war. Democrat's like Panetta want to concede this point before the battle has even begun. If Dean were to go along with Panetta's advice then it would destroy Dean's entire foreign policy argument.

That is why Democrat's like Panetta lose.

Fortunately, this article suggests that Democrat's like Panetta are on the losing side of the argument within the party as well:

"There is some anxiety," said Pat Griffin, who was President Clinton's liaison to Congress.

Such concern, Mr. Griffin said, was "a legitimate part of the process" but "it would be a mistake to say that people have drawn a conclusion that Dean's candidacy can't work."

At least Mr. Griffen seems to understand that all this talk about Dean's unelectability is a non-starter and potentially very dangerous.

Some saw Dr. Dean's remark on Mr. Hussein's capture as a sign that he would remain defiant toward President Bush, a quality that his supporters greatly admire.

"We don't want a wimp in this part of the country," said Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio. "Everything I've read that Dean has said about Saddam seems to be right on point. Our people have struggled to make a living and they want a fighter. They don't want some kind of Hollywood production with hair spray."

The time for figuring out how to "adjust" our views to "match the mood of the country". Is over. Democrats have adjusted enough. It's time for us to start insisting that other's adjust as well.


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