Daiblog A Fair and Balanced daily discussion of Democratic politics, ideas, strategy, and news
Friday, May 16, 2003
The Appearance Thereof
This Krugman editorial nicely sums up the national security case against Bush. I think it's particularly interesting in light of this piece, which is basically a look at the airbrushing of the presidency. Between the two pieces, you get a pretty good idea of why Bush's approval ratings stay high while people are scared, jobless and opposed to lots of his policies.
posted by Amanda
Not much in the news grabbed me today (I mean, is there really anything more to say about Jayson Blair? Haven't the responses been wholly predicatable? It must be nice when the news is a constant unfolding of events specially designed to reinforce your worldview. Some of us actually find that, you know, life, changes our mind. Silly us). Anyway. So here's a story:
In my last semester of college, I was lucky enough to have a seminar class called "Politics and the Press" taught by Dave McNeely and Karl Rove. Lots of stories to tell, but one in particular relates to my previous post on message discipline. I am telling this story purely from memory, so I may get some of the details wrong, but I'm pretty sure I've got the point right:
Rove told a story about a congressional race in Texas in the early 1980's: he was running the GOP candidate and James Carville was running the Dem. The Democratic candidate was a lawyer, and a smart one at that. Carville was having the damdest time (if I'm telling a story about Texas, I'm telling it in Texan) getting his candidate to stay on message. Because he was so smart, he kept holding forth at some length about various policy ideas. Impressive, but bad politics. The Dem's alleged theme was "Social Security." Carville basically wanted to make it a one-issue race, because if the race was only about Social Security, the Dem would win. At some point during the campaign, there was a terrorist attack on a U.S. foreign military installation, and some troops died. When pressed for his reaction to the tragedy, the Dem candidate said something like, "I hope the victims' families get their Social Security." At that point, Rove knew that Carville had gotten through to his man, and that the Dem would win. Which he did.
To address Adam's idea, I think there is no question that something along the lines that he describes is badly needed--directionless foreign policy is a disaster in its own right, and when coupled with a willingness (and sometimes even an eagerness) to topple other governments, it is devastating. Query, though, how to best put that message into a sellable campaign pitch--traditionally, elections being decided by voting on foreign policy (which I still think is distinct from national security, which I think the Republicans are much more vulnerable on at the moment) is extremely rare.
There are, of course, ideas out there--we have all probably heard by now that David Meserve got himself elected to the Arcata, CA city council on a platform of "The federal government has gone stark, raving mad." The council in turn officially resolved not to comply with federal directives under the Patriot Act that it deemed unconstitutional (Meserve being browbeaten by Fox News for this action here.)
Meserve's slogan seems increasingly reasonable in light of things like the cute nuke theory that is apparently making its way through the administration. In essence, the theory says that nuclear non-proliferationists are the enemy, and that having a large arsenal of low-yield (i.e., smallish) nuclear weapons is a desirable goal for the U.S. And according to Slate, the advocates of this theory have Rumsfeld's ear. Is this really something the public doesn't care about?
All of which is my long-winded way of saying that if the Democrats want to be credible and competitive on the issue of national security, they need not only to be able to point to what they would do right, but also to what is currently being done wrong and secretly. Co-opting of some of Bush's foreign policy because it appears to be popular will not cut it; you can't sell nuance in a five-second sound byte. I'm not saying we have to sell "stark, raving mad," but on the other hand, if the radioactive shoe fits, it's not such a bad thing to point out the guy who's wearing it.
posted by Amanda
So, we've been talking at length about how the Democrats can/should make national security a campaign issue in 2004. We have kicked around some ideas, and I've got another one. How about a Democratic Marshall Plan for the Middle East? I'm sure someone with lots more expertise than me has drafted one. I'm thining of a master plan which forecasts the United States' role for the next ten years or so in 1) Afghanistan, 2) Iraq, 3) Israel/Palestinian dispute, 4) The Middle East at large.
Can't we get some sort of document together which forecasts cost, troop requirements, roles for allies, roles for NGO's, roles for buisness? A coordinated plan? Couldn't we give it a slogan? "Building a safer tomorrow?"
Bush has attempted to cast himself as "bold." But where's his plan? Is it really the neocon plan? Does he really want to invade Syria? Cast the debate as "Democrats know what they're doing and Bush is making it up as he goes along."