Owning National Security
Handing national security softballs to the Republicans so they can hit them out of the park, like MoveOn’s mocking of General David Petreus or the Berkeley City Council’s assertion that their town is too good for a Marine recruiting office, needs to stop. The Republican Party has destroyed the armed forces, killed hundreds of thousands of people and squandered hundreds of billions of dollars in fruitless foreign adventurism, all the while doing nothing to improve the security of Americans from another terrorist attack.
Americans are coming to understand that Republican policies are dangerous and recent polls show that the Democratic Party is more trusted than Republicans when it comes to the nation’s security.
Converting that plurality to a firm majority will happen by making serious arguments and not trivial publicity stunts attacking those in uniform. Spencer Ackerman* has a really good idea on how to do that. He suggests that Democrats should have Jim Webb speak at the Denver convention, to talk about how the Republican Party has abandoned America, just like Jeane Kirkpatric did when she painted Democrats as light-in-their-loafers, lily-livered cowards:
On Aug. 20, 1984, Kirkpatrick, the arch anti-communist who served as Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations, took the microphone at the GOP convention in Dallas and inaugurated a tradition. Kirkpatrick was, she told her audience, a "lifelong Democrat." The trouble, she had come to realize, was that she was also an American. So in an electrifying speech that was at turns vitriolic and sentimental, she implied very strongly that you couldn't really be both.
When the San Francisco Democrats treat foreign affairs as an afterthought, as they did, they behaved less like a dove or a hawk than like an ostrich -- convinced it would shut out the world by hiding its head in the sand. … They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do -- they didn't blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians -- they blamed the United States instead. But then, somehow, they always blame America first.
And on and on in that vein. In one brief speech, Kirkpatrick introduced the world to the phrases "Blame America First" and "San Francisco Democrat"—well understood to mean "Faggot." Subtly, "San Francisco Democrat" had another purpose: it differentiated the alleged radicals in San Francisco from the salt-of-the-earth, America-loving Democrats that could now safely vote for Ronald Reagan.
It was demagogic, incendiary, and ugly. And it was also a masterstroke. The conversion narrative has been a staple in the rise of the New Right since it was new: After all, Reagan himself famously said he never left the Democratic Party, the party left him. But by connecting that sentiment to national security, Kirkpatrick gave her grievance myth a sense of world-historical importance, all before the television cameras. It was a template repeated, among other places, at the 2004 GOP convention by a rabid Zell Miller. Expect Kirkpatrick's bile to be recycled by Joe Lieberman this summer in Minneapolis.
Webb is a former Marine, was Secretary of the Navy under Saint Reagan, and can claim full authority when he describes how the Republicans have since abandoned Americans. That’s how you own an issue. You rip it out of your opponent’s hands, push them down and beat them over the head with it. Liberals, progressives, Democrats, the Left; however we describe ourselves, we have legitimate arguments and good people to make them. Instead of trashing each other and groups like the police and the military, we need to bring them into partnership with us to defeat the Evil that has seized our government and endangers us all.
Here’s another idea. Obama’s call for Unity is correct; he’s just going about it in the wrong direction. We don’t need to reach anywhere, we just need to tell the nation the truth; that George Bush and Dick Cheney are criminals and John McCain is no better. The more time we spend fussing over who is the most pure is valuable time wasted, and the best thing that Obama and Clinton could do right now is find a way to join forces for the good of the country.
Stop the campaign. No more voting, no more spending money to fight each other. Between them the Democratic candidates already have enough delegates to take the nomination. Flip a coin, or Obama can do the right thing and cede the top spot to Clinton and wait his turn, whatever, just wrap it up now and start attacking the Republican Criminal Cabal. Attack them and don't stop until they are crushed.