Why Democratic Political Consultants Love the Iraq War

Now we read in the Boston Globe how John Kerry, preparing to campaign to be commander in chief, voted in 2002 for the Iraq war after his political consultants informed the would-be leader of the free world that he would not be "politically viable" unless he voted yes.

This followed the disclosure that Bob Shrum advised John Edwards to send young men and women to die as a way of  improving his weak national-security resume in 2002.

Why Democratic officials listen to this is beyond me.

Here are the presidential campaigns that Bob Shrum lost: 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004.

Here are the presidential campaigns Mr. Shrum won: none.

Nice work, if you can get it.

By the way, Republican consultants are no better. They loved the Iraq war when they could use it to run television ads, accusing Democrats of being unpatriotic. Now they are reduced to gibberish about "surrender dates" while their members run to the White House and whine to the president, waving their polls, then vote for it again.

From the moment of the Democratic victory in the congressional elections of 2006, many of these Democratic consultants told party leaders that it would be wrong to make a powerful and principled stand against the Iraq war policy.

The majority consultant view was summed up early in the Democratic Congress by Celinda Lake, quoted in the Washington Post as believing that Democrats were not elected to solve the Iraq war, and that waging a politically heroic fight for change would be a distraction.

Think about it, folks: The Democratic 2000 nominee for vice president is one of America's leading neoconservative theoreticians in favor of the war. The Democratic leaders in 2002 joined Messrs. Cheney and Perle in aggressive advocacy of the war.

The Democratic nominees for president and vice president in 2004 both supported the Iraq war in 2002 after hearing the voice of the consultant class. They then lost an election they should have won through vacillation on the war, made famous by the quote about what one voted for before one voted against.

From the beginning, at every stage, Democrats did better in elections, to the exact degree that they spoke out strongly. In 2002, they voted for the war and lost a recession-like election. In 2004 they moved daintily in opposition and did better, but lost again. In 2006 they took their strongest position yet, and won, and Democrats in Congress surged ahead of the Republican Congress and Republican president in early 2007.

Enter the Democratic consultants.

Here, again, is their handiwork. We entered 2007 with one of the most unpopular presidents in history and one of the most unpopular Republican Congresses in history. Now, after a few short months of not fighting courageously for change, the Democratic Congress shows up in polls as equally unpopular as George W. Bush.

Great work.

Here are some truths that you haven't read yet in the Washington Post or The Hill or seen on the cable talkies, though you will.

The Democratic consultant class likes the Iraq war because it gives Democrats the chance to play pretend with non-binding actions, issue talking points about how they fought to change the policy, then lose everything in the end, at which point they can blame the Republicans for the war.

The majority view of Democratic consultants is they don't want to win a change in policy, because then they have ownership. They want look like they tried, then lose, and then blame Republicans for the war.

Morally speaking, this is dead wrong; in politics, this is half-right. Here is something else you have not seen from the pundit class, but it's true, and you will. There is a gigantic difference in the objective political interest between Senate Democrats and House Democrats.

With 21 Senate Republicans running for reelection, the Democrats will pick up seats. There is a chance the Democrats pick up many seats, based purely on the math.

The Bob Shrum award for lack of courage and principle on war votes, coupled with an uncanny ability to lose elections, goes to the Senate Republicans. They support a war that few privately believe in, and commit political hari-kari by doing so.

Anyone who believes "we can work this out in September" is dreaming.

On the House side, with an overwhelming majority of Americans loathing this war, the vulnerability is in the freshman class of new Democrats and those Democrats who won narrow victories. Their objective interest politically is doing far more than the current Congress for troops and vets (more on this soon) and offering principled opposition to the hated status quo.

Projecting current trends, it is very possible that Democrats increase their margin in the Senate while losing control of the House. Remember where you heard it first.

Here's my view, as an unyielding opponent of the war policy and unyielding supporter of troops and vets, and I will soon offer a mega-proposal that will REALLY support the troops and vets.

Who cares about the politics? War is a moral and patriotic matter that should be decided on the grounds of high principle and high honor. We have just ended one election, which neither party now honors with regard to Iraq, and the next election is about a year and a half away.

Here is the state of play, rounding off the numbers. Seventy percent of the American people disapprove of the current policy; disapprove of President Bush; disapprove of Republicans in Congress; and now disapprove of the Democratic Congress.

It is America versus Washington.

On matters of patriotism, honor, war and peace, reasonable people can disagree about the policy. What is extraordinary and unique in my experience is that on this matter the truth is that 98 percent of Democrats in Congress, 70 percent of Republicans in Congress, perhaps 100 percent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly oppose the current policy in private  but then act to continue it in public.

On the most authoritative poll, in Military Times, the president's popularity among active-duty troops in the military is under 40 percent.

Think about it.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps makes an urgent appeal for life-saving equipment in 2005, which is 90 percent held in contempt, i.e. ignored, by the very politicians who vote for a war they don't believe in, then give Memorial Day speeches proclaiming their love for the troops.

Who do they think they're kidding?

It is America versus Washington, and what Washington insiders don't get is this: When 70 percent disapprove of them all, and they issue talking points proclaiming their own greatness, all this does is make Americans disapprove of them even more strongly.

On all issues involving the war and the troops, we have the most educated Americans in history. They cannot be fooled; politicians who insult them, with obviously untrue talking points, do so at their peril.

Never have so many been compensated so extravagantly to write anything so stupid.

Here's my advice. First, tell the truth. Second, support the troops and vets in ways that are far more comprehensive and honorable than what either party is doing today. Third, fight like hell to change the policy.

When Washington begins to respect America, Americans will no longer feel 70 percent disrespect for both parties in Washington.

The way to win the election in 2008 is to respect the election of 2006.

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