Heres an article in

June 19, 2006 10:21 a.m.

Here’s an article in the Times describing Rep. John Murtha’s swipe back at Karl Rove’s speech in which the president’s chief political advisor tried to take the political offensive against Democrats on Iraq. The Times quotes Rove assailing “that party’s old pattern of cutting and running.” And Murtha comes back at Rove: “He’s making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside saying, ‘Stay the course.’ That’s not a plan.”

Then there’s this passage …

Mr. Murtha spoke as the Bush administration pressed ahead with its campaign to seize the political offensive on Iraq — a push that included President Bush’s surprise visit to Baghdad early last week.

The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, made the rounds on the Sunday morning political programs, saying that President Bush had every intention of sticking with the course he had set in Iraq, even as opinion polls suggested that most Americans were increasingly uneasy about the war.

“The president understands people’s impatience — not impatience but how a war can wear on a nation,” Mr. Snow said on the CNN program “Late Edition.” “He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, ‘Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?’ But you cannot conduct a war based on polls.”

Here is a claim that needs to be blown apart. Get real: the administration isn’t trying to seize the offensive on Iraq. The war is dismally unpopular and on that basic judgment opinions are largely congealed and fast congealing. They know that. What the White House is doing is trying to knock the opposition off its stride and scare them out of their own offensive, which is to hold the administration accountable and press for a change of direction on Iraq.

Of course, the White House is going to try to call any change of direction “Cut and Run”. That’s their angle. That’s their card. If you can’t stand in the debate in the face of that, far better to leave all foreign policy entirely off the table and contest the election on minimum wage or college loans.

With more apologies in advance for suspect language, this is more of the White House trying to make the opposition into their chumps and bitches. The aim is to scare the opposition out of taking the Iraq debacle to the voters.

Kevin Drum was right a couple days ago when he said that the key problem for Democrats in coming up with a unified message on Iraq is that they’re not unified. That’s life. And it’s not terribly surprising that they’re not unified. We’ve gotten into an incredible fix in Iraq. And extricating a country from a predicament like this isn’t easy. We have Democrats who think the whole idea was a disaster from the start and that we should leave immdiately, others who think it was a plausible idea bungled through incompetence, others who speak of timelines for withdrawal.

But the White House is making and has made its stand quite clear — American troops in Iraq at least through 2009, and probably for the indefinite future; and no reevaluation of the basic concept of why we went in. So, a good idea to start with and we’ll stay there more or less forever. (Saying we’ll be there until 2009 and then having no plan to leave after that = forever.) That position is so out of sync with where the country is and so disastrous for the country’s security and future prosperity, that I don’t think anyone should be afraid to go to the country opposing it. The truth is that the president doesn’t have any policy beside denial about how we got into this jam.

Democrats need to keep learning from the president’s debacle last year on Social Security. They need to learn from how they confronted his gambit. You seldom can win a political debate unless and until you decide you are willing to lose it the right way. On Social Security the Democrats eventually made a decision and took it to the voters. If you want to keep Social Security, choose us. If not, choose the other side. And if we lose, we can live with that. Because we’re confident that that’s a question we’re willing to take to the people.

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