Friday, June 16, 2006

Congressional Debate Over Iraq Speaks of Rovian Strategy

It's never a particularly kind thing to dangle a juicy piece of meat in front of a dog. Because the dog is an animal and a creature of instinct he will probably be unable to pull himself away from the treat he believes will be his, and he will probably ignore everything else, because just about every dog thinks with his stomach.

And what we are now seeing in Congress, where the Republicans are forcing a vote on a non-binding resolution praising our troops, associating Iraq with the global war on terror, and refusing to set some artificial date for withdrawal is an equally cruel act. It forces the Democrats into a real position, off of the false dichotomy of supporting our troops but not their mission, and forces then to address Iraq in the wake of several weeks of major successes, and all in an election year when they hoped to use the same issue against Republicans in order to gain a majority in Congress.

But this is not an isolated act. This is classic Karl Rove preparing at the very least to hold Congressional losses to a minimum, prevent losses altogether and possibly even to gain more ground in November like he did in 2002.

It is a settled issue that the Bush presidency stands or falls on the success of the war and the peace in Iraq. And given the reports of the past week, the terrorist elements have been dealt a death blow with the killing of Zarqawi and subsequent raids staged on his associates based upon information he had with him. Bush's new media team, led by the apparently more than capable Tony Snow have been able to play it all to the President's advantage, bringing his approval ratings to about 40%, proving that the public ties Bush to Iraq, as they ought.

But the successes of the past week put the Democrats in a tough position: they must acknowledge them for the successes that the Iraqi government considers them to be, thus alienating their base, find some hybrid position that acknowledges them as victories but then retreats to the tried and failed mantras of the 2004 election about Iraq being a distraction, a lie, etc. making them sound stupid, or the unabashed leftist position which regards the death of Zarqawi as a stunt. In any case, the last two positions open them to the accusation that they are not serious about terror or national security, but only crank politics and personal bitterness.

It's hard to quantify what the results will be, but the Republicans have nothing to lose by this.


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