The six months itch.

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The six months itch. You may recall having seen something about the FAIR report into how whatever day it is, Tom Friedman always thinks the next sixth months will be the decisive ones in Iraq. Atrios reminds us that he’s hardly the only one who’s been pulling this kind of thing. Will Marshall said, 28 months ago, that “America has about six months to break the resistance and give the new Iraqi government a fighting chance to survive. It would help if our leaders stopped casting anxious glances toward the exits.” When that didn’t happen, though, he didn’t change his tune.

Beyond poking fun at people, there’s a serious issue here. Voters are upset about how things are going in Iraq. So Democrats want to criticize the Bush Iraq policy. This means they must agree that things are going very badly in Iraq. But the consultant class along with various others has determined that calling for withdrawal is a losing strategy. Consequently, Democrats find themselves arguing that Iraq is perpetually on the brink of total disaster as a result of Bush’s policies, but never, ever, ever actually goes over the tipping point of becoming the sort of lost cause where the main American goal has to be cutting our losses.

The resulting rhetoric is deeply, deeply foolish.

I don’t know if the contradictions it leads to are a political problem, per se. What it reflects, however, is precisely the reflex that’s been crippling Democrats ever since 9/11 — a refusal to step back and figure out what they really think before calling in the pollsters and so forth to figure out what to say about it. This is a policy that’s driven by a weird combination of timidity and partisanship and that’s precisely the thing voters doubt about Democrats’ ability to run the country. But the big, bad scary Bush of 2002 is gone. The new unpopular Bush won’t even be on the ballot again. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and start saying what they mean, and offering some arguments in good faith.

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