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March 30, 2006
Color The LA Times Unimpressed

One media outlet on which Democrats could rely for sympathetic treatment for their new "plan" on national security would be the Los Angeles Times. Its political analyst, Ron Brownstein, is not known for pandering to conservatives either. The combination should have provided the best opportunity for the Democratic plan to resonate with the national media.

Unfortunately, the Democrats developed a "plan" that not even the LA Times could like, and Brownstein tells why:

Sharpening their election-year message, leading Democrats on Wednesday released a plan that promised to strengthen America's security but offered few details about how they would achieve their sweeping goals. ...

Though Democrats were spirited in their denunciations of Bush's record on national security, they offered limited insights into the actual policies they would pursue if returned to power.

The party document said Democrats would double the size of the military's special forces, pass legislation improving veterans' medical care and press to screen all cargo bound for the United States "in ships or airplanes at the point of origin."

On many other fronts, though, the Democratic plan emphasized aspiration over direction.

For instance, party leaders said they would make "the needed investments in equipment and manpower so that we can project power to protect America wherever and whenever necessary." But aides said the proposal did not commit Democrats to any specific increase in defense spending.

Along with its vow to eliminate Bin Laden, the plan said Democrats would "destroy terrorist networks like Al Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan and end the threat posed by the Taliban." But other than adding more special forces and improving America's intelligence capacity, the document offered no hints of what strategies the party might employ toward those ends.

The plan is a collection of slogans and mission statements with almost no specifics about legislation, financing, strategies, tactics, or military efforts to achieve them. Even on those topics where their report gets specific, it fails to address the consequences of the action involved. For instance, on its insistence that the Democrats would eliminate Osama through greater numbers of special forces (doubling them), it does not say how or where they will find the men to fill those slots or the funding necessary for the expansion. It does not address how exactly they will manage to invade Pakistan against the will of our precariously-seated ally Pervez Musharraf without touching off another war.

The most humorous moment comes when the Democrats accuse George Bush of "subcontracting" the Iranian nuclear talks to the British, French, and Germans. After listening to their complaints over the last four years about Bush's supposed "unilateral" approach to foreign affairs -- while he garnered the support of dozens of nations for the invasion of Iraq, including troops from 15 other countries -- having them screech about allowing the three European nations that appear to be at the highest risk of a nuclear-tipped Shahab-3 rocket only solidifies the hyperpartisan nature of their approach. The Democrats have no consistency on national security, no credibility, and this passage is a perfect example of why. Instead of actually developing a comprehensive, consistent, and thorough strategy for foreign policy, they've reduced themselves to nothing more than gainsaying whatever the GOP does and hope that the voters don't notice the difference.

The point of the document, as Brownstein hints but never outright states, isn't to redirect American policy much at all, except to make our exit from Iraq a full-blown retreat reminiscent of our exits in Somalia and Beirut. This effort is just a superficial talking-points memo designed to make Democrats sound tough without having to make any of the hard decisions already faced by this administration. It's the perfect "eat your cake and have it too" document, but it is so baldly superficial that it can't even convince Democratic allies to support it.

Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards and Jim Geraghty at TKS have done an excellent job in dissecting this piece of meringue. Start at the links at keep moving through the rest of their posts on the subject.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 30, 2006 6:26 AM

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