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January 24, 2006
Dionne Comes Close To The Answer

The Washington Post's E. J. Dionne comes close to unlocking the mystery of Democratic incompetence in dealing with Republican electoral strategy. Dionne notes that Karl Rove, the GOP's master of electoral politics since 2000, has always shown a rather remarkable openness and honesty about how the Republicans plan to handle the electoral battle, and the Democrats have never come up with an answer:

Perhaps it's an aspect of compassionate conservatism. Or maybe it's just a taunt and a dare. Well in advance of Election Day, Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, has a habit of laying out his party's main themes, talking points and strategies.

True Rove junkies (admirers and adversaries alike) always figure he's holding back on something and wonder what formula the mad scientist is cooking up in his political lab. But there is a beguiling openness about Rove's divisive and ideological approach to elections. You wonder why Democrats have never been able to take full advantage of their early look at the Rove game plan.

That's especially puzzling because, since Sept. 11, 2001, the plan has focused on one variation or another of the same theme: Republicans are tough on our enemies, Democrats are not. If you don't want to get blown up, vote Republican.

Dionne then takes us through a thumbnail history of Democratic failures for electoral themes, a hilarious ride through complaints about an economy that turned out to be one of the strongest in history, education, and a "patients' bill of rights", a deranged priority set during wartime. Dionne gets it right when he says the big failure comes from an aversion to directly engaging the Republicans on the war.

However, the missing ingredient is that Democrats have a bigger problem than lacking a coherent theme; they've lacked a coherent program, especially on national security. Nowhere does that come across more than in the divergent approaches to Iran and Iraq. For three years, Democrats have screamed that the Bush administration has taken a "unilateral" approach to Iraq and trashed our relationship with European allies -- despite trying for five months to get them to enforce 12 years worth of useless UN resolutions. Suddenly with Iran, the Democratic front-runner claims that allowing Europe a significant role in negotiations amounts to "outsourcing" America's responsibilities, and they scream that George Bush hasn't been unilateral enough.

For that matter, the NSA program gives voters another stiff neck from the Pong Game Of Politics that Democrats have employed. Sice 9/11, Democrats have sought to blame the Bush administration for being asleep at the switch before 9/11 and dragging their feet afterwards in protecting the country from further attack. However, when the New York Times revealed this program that the administration put into place -- and about which they kept key Democrats fully briefed continuously since -- all of a sudden they start screaming about personal privacy, when most Americans worry about stopping the next al-Qaeda attack. The most vocal start threatening impeachment when many people start feeling relieved that the attack-free period following 9/11 doesn't appear to have been a mere fluke after all.

Dionne has a good start on the problem, but misses the cause. Until the Democrats start coming up with a coherent plan for national security, they will remain locked out of power no matter how many "themes" they dream up.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 24, 2006 6:05 AM

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» To thine own self be true from Posse Incitatus
Captain Ed points to an article from E. J. Dionne that attempts to explain the Democrats' inability to respond effectively to evil genius Karl Rove's Republican electoral strategy, particularly dealing with questions of national security. The good capt... [Read More]

Tracked on January 24, 2006 2:19 PM


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