Tuesday, January 31, 2006

# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PELOSI & DURBIN OFFER "PRE-BUTTAL" TO STATE OF THE UNION: Last Thursday at the National Press Club, Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin had a chance to go on the offensive. They didn't, and it seemed to frustrate their liberal audience. The NY Times added insult to injury by running a headline about the speech that read, "Democrats Outline the Agenda, Mostly Sparing the Specifics".

Pelosi covered the domestic front while Durbin talked about security. The most memorable moment in Pelosi's speech was her "guarantee" that "every American will have affordable access to broadband – within five years." I think the free market may take care of that one on Pelosi's behalf. After all, Verizon is already offering DSL for $14.95 month. And the first month is free!

In his talk about security, Durbin went to extraordinary lengths to take absolutely no position about the war in Iraq. On the one hand, he said that:
The war in Iraq has diverted resources away from the war on terror, and damaged America’s standing in the world. It has limited our options to deal with other clear threats to our security – including the growing nuclear threats from both Iran and North Korea. And it stretched the finest military force in the world dangerously thin.
So that does that mean we should bring the troops home now or even in six months' time? Apparently not:
More than 2,200 of American service men and women have died in Iraq. They have given their lives...

Our troops have done everything we have asked of them. We owe it to them, and to their families, to hold our government accountable for a real plan to succeed in Iraq.
But don't persuade yourself that Durbin wants a long-term commitment to democracy promotion and nation-building:
Seventy-nine Senators – Democrats and Republicans – have said 2006 must be a year of significant transition in Iraq. The President must make it clear to Iraqis, and the world, that America will not stay in Iraq indefinitely. Iraqis must assume responsibility for securing their own borders and protecting their own citizens.
To put a positive spin on all of this, I guess you could say that no matter your opinion is about Iraq, Dick Durbin sort of agrees with you.

But that isn't good enough for the Democratic base, which made itself felt during the Q&A that followed Durbin & Pelosi's speeches. (There's no transcript available, but you can watch the event here or download it via podcast -- URL: http://www.democraticleader.house.gov/podcast/housedems.xml)

The first question was fairly supportive:
How do Democrats win the national security debate in '06? If people believe the Republicans will protect them better, does it matter what your domestic agenda is?
Pelosi's answer: "I believe that Sen. Durbin spelled that out very clearly." Heh. She also said that "We cannot allow this very important debate to slip into a place where people question our patriotism." Who did that? Barack Obama? Anyhow, Pelosi also managed to avoid talking a position on Iraq.

Durbin also took a stab at the question and gave an answer that came down to two words: Body armor. That should be a sort of Democratic mantra. Iraq? Body armor!

Now, I'll be the first to admit that this administration has done a lot of things wrong in Iraq, with the SecDef almost in denial about the situation there. And body armor is one of them. But body armor is not a position and it is not a policy.

Anyhow, here's the next question:
Why did Democrats line up so solidly to support President Bush when asked Congress for authority to invade Iraq? Don't you think that if the Democrats had strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq they would now be reaping the political benefits of that opposition?
Pelosi's answer was quite revealing:
First of all, let me question the basis of the question. Sixty percent of House Democrats voted against the war resolution. Sixty percent of them did...

But you give this a political tilt, and this isn't about politics...There is no party position about the war.
Well that is abundantly clear.
(4) opinions -- Add your opinion

The body armor refrain reminds me of Kerry harping on Tora Bora (as if Bush drafted the operational plans for the offensive or something). For the love of G-d, why can't the Democrats speak in strategic terms? Do they believe it unnecessarily opens them up to criticism, and that sticking to minor tactical arguments like body armor is a safer route? I mean, I can't believe it's the case that after all these years no party leader has thought strategically about foreign policy. But it makes me wonder, because if they have, then why stew on these middling issues? The body armor/Tora Bora attacks may hurt Bush, but that isn't what the Dems should be focused on right now because Bush isn't running for office in 2008. They need to be rebuilding the party's image and making the case that they are ready to take over, and this crap is not a case.
But the Dems AREN'T united on Iraq. Why pretend to be? In fact, why should they be? Why would a party thats essentially a coalition built around domestic issues have a common position on foreign policy? Should foreign policy be an essentially partisan issue? Why is thinking that keeping troops on the ground in Iraq will help the Iraqi political process a "Republican" position, while thinking that removing them quickly will aid that process a "Democratic" position?
The Dems lack of a strategic position on Iraq deprives the country of valuable input. In the best of worlds, the Dems would offer a positive alternative strategy. Debates between theirs and Bush's would result in a improved approach.
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