Nineteen Months To Go: Iraq and the Next Presidency

Political commentator and novelist Fletcher Knebel once wrote that the second rule of politics is to do whatever is necessary to get elected, and that the first rule is that the second takes precedence over everything. That this is the Democrats’ current mantra is clear, even this far out from the 2008 presidential election. Conservatives should take heart from liberal party pandering, posturing and positioning and their presidential candidates’ willingness to stoop lower than ever to get the Democratic nomination. Internal self-whacking typifies their lust for power.

Examples of this abound. Hillary’s attacks of the moment, for example, are less directed against President Bush than to making sure that her base knows that Barack Obama went by the name “Barry” during his youth and that Bill Richardson’s real political goal is the Vice presidency. If these don’t add up to her recognition that she has little to offer based on her experience, accomplishments, and abilities, then deductive reasoning has become a thing of the past.

And yet the conservative faithful are worried and restless. They have yet to identify and settle on a candidate whose appeal and financial backing are great enough to capture their enthusiasm and devotion. Add to that the daily flow of bad news supplied the mainstream media and some Republican behavior over the past few years that has been appallingly inconsistent with conservative values, and you have the reason why conservatives despair over the absence of a hero who can echo Ronald Reagan’s reverberating and self-fulfilling proclamation of 22 years ago, “[t]he tide of history is moving irresistibly in our direction.” That thought, sweet music then to the ears of his hopeful audience, would sound dissonant if spoken now. How ironic, given that the reason why that famous statement worked then is still alive.

“The other side,” Reagan said, remains “virtually bankrupt of ideas,” with “nothing to add to the debate.” Today’s situation is the same. Liberals offer nothing useful on health care; nothing useful on immigration control (homeland security’s most important concern); nothing useful on educating children in low-income neighborhoods; and nothing useful to prevail against Islamic predators who want to subjugate America and the rest of the world to a caliphate of mind control and to kill all who refuse to submit. In a world such as this, the machinations among the liberal presidential candidates are childlike.

Democratic legislators, driven by the Nancy Pelosi’s and Harry Reid’s lust for political power (arguably the Democrats’ only program), have opened a door of opportunity for Republican redemption which the party can seize only by acting with a showing of strength based on conservative ideas and ideals. The Pelosi gift to the Republicans is the House’s just-passed Iraq battle funding bill, a bill that proposes to legislate wartime strategy, a bill whose passage required $20 billion in special-interest bribes to be paid by the American public.

The bring-‘em-home Democrats not only lack what it takes to defund the war effort that liberals so despise, they refuse to come clean and own up to the assuredly deadly results of their “war plan.” They cannot explain, let alone establish a connection between support for our troops and handouts for their own political benefit such as the $25 million they are giving to farmers who grow spinach. They turn spinach into pork, and that ain’t kosher.

Reid’s senate Democrats will soon try to pass a somewhat similar bill. They may fail, given the difficulty of a two-vote majority party (one vote of which belongs to Joe Lieberman) to cross the 62 threshold. Failure to gain passage of their bill, even aside from the veto that awaits the Democrats’ final post-mark-up version, will not foreclose the opportunity this foolishness offers to conservatives. These bills comprise the product of liberal thinking, so-to-speak, and their thoughts will survive to be used against them.

But to take advantage of this gift, Republicans must again learn how to communicate effectively. If they do, they can connect up the foolishness of this pandering with the continuing liberal tactic to capitalize on the country’s desire to be rid of the demoralizing difficulties inherent in the kind of fight now taking place in Iraq. They must show that these difficulties, painful as they may be, do not hold a candle to the conflagration that awaits America and the rest of the free world if withdrawal leaves a vacuum that our hopes for safety will abhor.

Republicans need to find a strong conservative voice, a self-assured voice that will speak persuasive words of truth to remind everyone of ongoing dangers to freedom and life that cannot be controlled by a retrenchment. They need to show why retrenchment, itself, is a threat to our safety.

The conservative voice must explain how the war in Iraq has reduced the radical Islamist threat here and elsewhere, how the threat can be controlled if we maintain our resolve and why success, a free and stable self-governing Iraq, will require the kind of fortitude that places the protection of freedom far ahead of domestic political gamesmanship.

To those who point to Reagan’s bankrupt-the-Soviets strategy to further an argument that war was a mistake, the response should be that Reagan’s America was in competition with a state that wanted to incorporate the benefits of our capitalism, whereas America is now at war with stateless enemy combatants who will use a vulnerable Iraq to carry out their mission to achieve the downfall of a free society that includes what they see as western decadence which they despise, fear and want to obliterate, a mission for which they are ready to kill and willing to die.

House and Senate Democrats are setting the best possible stage for a conservative resurgence. They are offering an opportunity that yearns to be seized. The hard part will not be to formulate the message that a conservative leader needs to deliver, but to find a leader whose stature and values will command the attention that the message deserves.