Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Confronting the "Dems are Weak" Meme

The Washington Post has an article today on Rudy Giuliani doing his best impression of Karl Rove by claiming the country would be in more danger from terrorists with a Democratic president.

The polls show that most Americans think otherwise. But clearly this isn't a strategy for most Americans. Instead, it's aimed at primary voting GOPers. The goal is to rally the base by giving them a reason to be proud about being Republicans again.

The trick for Giuliani will be transferring this message into the general election if he wins in the primary season. Much of Giuliani's popularity after September 11 came through his purported leadership in uniting the country against a clear enemy. This new message, however, is markedly different in that it uses September 11 to separate the country into the tough and the weak rather than unifying it with a wholly positive message.

What will also prove difficult for Giuliani, should he make it to the general, is continuing to leap frog Iraq when attempting to take people back to the days after September 11. In the Post article cited above, Giuliani continuously uses the frame that Democrats would put the country on the defensive in the war on terrorism. But, at the same time, he's careful not to explicitly equate Republicans with a strong offense even though it's obviously implicit in his argument.

After all, in the eyes of most Americans these days, it was an overzealous offense that drove us into a pre-emptive war in Iraq, which is exactly the topic Giuliani is trying to avoid.

I can just picture a Democratic candidate easily throwing this in Giuliani's face in a debate. But, of course, the effectiveness of this turnaround is very much dependant upon what Democratic candidate we're talking about.

To be fully effective, it really needs to be a Dem who opposed the Iraq War from the get-go. That clearly hurts Hillary Clinton, but it also limits John Edwards even though he has apologized for his vote and can claim he's learned from his mistake. The most effective at making this argument would be Barack Obama and Bill Richardson, although Al Gore and Wes Clark could also use it if they were to enter the race.

Of course, this isn't to say the Dems should choose their candidate with a GOP opponent in mind. In fact, the opposite is true.

The Dems need to nominate a candidate who can best express and embody the fundamental Democratic position on national security -- that the emphasis needs to be on terrorism, and invading Iraq distracted the country from that goal and in the process fueled more terrorism; and, furthermore, the problems of Iraq are not military-based, but policy-based, resulting primarily from a combination of the Bush administration's horrendous planning and its general squandering of the international goodwill that existed in the aftermath of September 11.

If the Democrats don't nominate someone who can express and embody that position, and subsequently use it as a base for articultating what we should do now, they may just waste that refreshing position they now enjoy in the polls.


Side-Note: I want to emphasize that I don't think Clinton or Edwards can't win in the general because of their Iraq War vote; I just think it limits their effectiveness in delivering the fundamental Democratic position on national security.

UPDATE: Obama responds to Giuliani:
Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kind of politics. America’s mayor should know that when it comes to 9/11 and fighting terrorists, America is united. We know we can win this war based on shared purpose, not the same divisive politics that question your patriotism if you dare to question failed policies that have made us less secure.
An excellent response. It highlights the divisiveness of the comment and notes that it's policy failures that have hurt America, not a lack of military strength or patriotism, while simultaneously touching on Obama's core campaign theme of creating a new type of politics based upon shared hope.

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Blogger will andrew said...

I have to agree with the critique of Giuliani's warrior pose. I found it a bit ludicrous to watch him aping Bush with the 9/11 card.

Given his history prior to 9/11, I don't think he's going to make it easier on himself over time. He's too enthralled with his persona, and, frankly, he's been casting a large shadow without too much substance. With the flaws that have stayed somewhat downplayed (mistress in the mansion, Kerik, Harding, acts against free speech), I think he's a hollow candidate in the long run.

For someone like Rudy, who wasn't all that much liked in NYC in the months leading to 9/11, he doesn't have anything else as a fallback position. Unfortunately, 9/11 it is, and 9/11 it will continue to be. At the very least, though, the one-sided front makes it easier to punch a hole through.

April 25, 2007  

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