The Dems' losing strategy

COMMENTARY Political Process

The Dems' losing strategy

Jun 23rd, 2006 3 min read

Democrats in Congress recently released their plan to take back Congress in the upcoming fall elections. But there seemed to be a few pages missing since their plan contained not even one utterance about the situation in Iraq.

Unfortunately, that was by design. In fact, apparently not content to simply be silent on the most important issue facing our nation today Democrats in Congress of late have been highlighting their party's division on this central issue.

This division was highlighted prominently when Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA) addressed a group of Democratic activists last week. Clinton told the crowd she did not think bringing the troops home according to a "date certain" was a "smart strategy." She was roundly hissed and booed.

Later, Kerry sucked up to the anti-war crowd by disavowing virtually every position he took on the issue during the 2004 campaign. He apologized for his Senate vote to authorize the war and instead called for immediate troop withdrawal. If the rambunctious crowd could have carried Kerry out on its shoulders Rudy-style it would have.

The Clinton-Kerry split is not just tactical maneuvering by two wannabe 2008 Democratic presidential nominees. The split is real, and it has been playing itself out in Congress over the last few days.

Last week in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi laid it all out on the table. The Democratic leader told National Journal's Congress Daily, "We don't even have a party position on the war." Instead of leaving it at that, Pelosi and her team of lieutenants decided to bring a resolution to the House floor that would call for the precipitous withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The resolution was opposed by nearly a quarter of the Democratic caucus.

Having failed to unite her caucus even around a non-binding resolution Pelosi was left trying to explain her party's divisions and lack of consensus.

Democrats in the Senate have faired no better.

During last week's debate on the Department of Defense authorization bill, Kerry offered a Senate version of the withdrawal amendment. His version was soundly defeated, garnering only six votes. But Kerry still plans to offer more amendments, and he is not alone. Fellow Democratic senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed have their own competing resolutions calling for "phased redeployment" while liberal darling Sen. Russ Feingold has agreed to join forces with Kerry in his quest for immediate withdrawal.

The lack of clarity and unity for Senate Democrats mirrors that of their House colleagues' but like Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Reid appears unfazed.

At a recent press conference Reid rebuffed criticism about the Democrats disarray and instead pointed at the President. "We feel this today; it's not November 7th," said Reid. "Where is the plan? Where is the president's plan to get us out of Iraq? He's the commander in chief, we're not." Indeed, attacking the president in hopes of diverting attention from the Democrats' lack of a plan has become a favorite call in the Democratic playbook.

Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Stacie Paxton attacked the President after a recent news conference in which Bush touted positive developments in the war. "The President's optimism," she declared, "is no substitute for a real plan for Iraq that will help the American people understand when the mission is successful and completed."

But don't ask Democrats for that "real plan." As noted above, even their highest ranking leaders have admitted that they do not have one nor do they intend to come up with one.

Absent any plan to win the Global War on Terror, Democrats are left unified around one goal related to the war: scoring maximum political points. Certainly Democrats think they can translate public weariness with the war in Iraq into electoral success. But this political calculation puts them in perhaps the worst posture they could be in going into an election; they have to root for failure in Iraq. Each success seems to be a political setback for the party.

Indeed, after U.S. Forces killed the brutal terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, some Democrats were less than enthusiastic.

The Washington Times reported that Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) complained that the good news was "just to cover Bush's [rear] so he doesn't have to answer" for Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military and his own sagging poll numbers. "Iraq is still a mess," said Stark. "Get out."

Another of the Democrats' fringiest members, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), agreed. As The Washington Times reported, Kucinich dismissed the death of the al Qaeda leader as relatively meaningless, saying Zarqawi was a small part of "a growing anti-American insurgency."

Will the American public really favor a party that politically is forced to root for bad news for the country and the free world in general? Not only is this a strategy designed to lose the war in Iraq, it would seem to be a loser politically as well.

Tim Chapman is the Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and a contributor to's Capitol Report.

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