Thursday, April 13, 2006

Framing the Democratic Message on Iran

Greg Sargent at The American Prospect is dead right when he says that Democrats need to be developing a message now about why a preemptive attack on Iran would be crazy, counter-productive, and wrong--a message around which they can coalesce in time for a Congressional debate and the fall midterm elections.

But I disagree with his favored version of the message (borrowed from John Avarosis at AMERICAblog), which states, "George Bush is the wrong man to be launching yet another war." It carries the unmistakeable implication that "yet another war" might be all right if only we had a better man to lead it.

This is the "incompetence" argument, closely akin to Condi Rice's "tactical errors" argument, both of which are likely to become increasingly favored right-wing positions as the Bush administration continues to unravel. The lesson the arch-conservatives take from the Bush fiascos is, "Next time we need to elect someone who is just as radical and ruthless as Bush, but a little smarter." I wouldn't want Democrats to do anything to (inadvertently) lend support to that position.

For this reason, I think it's a mistake for Democrats to lean too heavily on Bush's personal failings. He's going to be gone, one way or another, in three years (absent some truly apocalyptic constitutional upheaval), but the battle against the militant, tyrannical, corporatist Republicanism he represents will go on. We need to challenge that ideology, not just the man who currently embodies it.

With all that in mind, I'd prefer to see Democrats opposed to an Iran attack rally around a message like this: "America can't afford to squander its resources and waste its children's lives in a third failed war in the Middle East." This puts the focus where it belongs--on the policy, not the man.

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