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The Hamdan Decision: Republican Vulnerability, Democratic Opportunity?

leah's picture

the 3rd post in a series

On Monday, the kewl kids at ABC's The Note affixed a remarkable headline to its daily snarkfest of political news and views:

"The Party of National Insecurity"

What made it remarkable - the party in question wasn't the Democratic Party.

It wasn't quite that Republican one, either.

For the first time in living memory, though, The Note was suggesting the conventional wisdom universally accepted by the SCLM, (including The Note, as The Note noted), that Republicans are, preeminently, the party of National Security, might actually be, on this planet, within our lifetime, susceptible to doubt.

Based on the results in 2002 and 2004, on Terry McAuliffe's eye rolls at bipartisan social gatherings, and on what gets written in The Note, Republicans believe that they can hold their Senate and House majorities by playing the national security card from the top and bottom of the deck in the July-August-September-October-November window and ride that to victory.

But over the weekend, ABC News was given an exclusive first-look tour of the new Democratic Party war room in the bowels of the DNC headquarters, behind a secret passageway and down some stairs.

There on the wall is a sign with the party's Dean-Schumer-Emanuel-Pelosi-Soros-Sweeney-Kennedy-Clintons-Reid-approved messages:

It's Iraq, Stupid

Change Versus More of the Same

Don't Forget Human and Civil Rights

I'm not sure if such a first-look took place, or if there's a joke in there I'm not getting; I only pray that such a "war room" does exist, with precisely those maxims displayed on its walls, preferably, all four.

Further evidence that a newly pugnacious Democratic Party is ready, in its own disorganized way, to challenge this Republican administration and this Republican congress on its perceived, self-proclaimed strengths - tough on terrorism, preemptively pro-active around the world, determined to do whatever it takes to protect Americans at home,(who are otherwise helpless) - is on display in this must-read post by Digby, which celebrates the unconventional wisdom contained in a "strategy memo" from an uber-Democratic-insider polling outfit, Democracy Corps, run by James Carville and Stan Greenberg. And the number one change dynamic the memo identifies is - the Iraq war.

The Democrats need to catch up with the country, which wants to vote for outsiders, is demanding change and ready to respond to the Democrats’ message and definition of the election. All things considered, this is not a bad problem to have, but it requires a new intensity and focus to grab ahold of the forces for change and take the Democrats to a new level.


The Republicans are trying to deny Democrats the voters they need. Understand that those undecided and dislodged voters do respond to these conservative issues, yet these are the voters Democrats need to raise their vote. They have not closed the deal because the image of the Democrats has not improved over the last year and the number of Democratic identifiers has not risen.

Thus, Democrats must do better in identifying with the forces for change and making them matter in the election. If they do that, they will consolidate their vote, win over the undecided, increase turnout and demoralize the Republicans. But Democrats must also act aggressively to confound and undermine the efficacy of the conservative issues, thus allowing these voters to vote for change. That combination can take the Democrats to a dramatic level.

As Digby points out, the content of the memo is precisely what those barbarians-at-the-gate netroots have been shrilly realistic about for...well, for years now. Read the whole post, please.

The Iraq war = the WOT = all issues about this nation's internal and external security; that's been set up for us by Karl Rove, and his mouthpiece, George W. Bush.

In a sense, Republicans have no way of not running on security issues.

And they are going to.

And as Rove has taught Republicans to do - they will try and make a virtue of necessity.

And as Rove has schooled the SCLM to do - they will try and make a virtue of Republicans running on their weakness.

Here's Nancy Milligan in the Boston Globe, taking dictation in order to report on Republican strategy:

Congressional Republicans, on the defense over the unpopular war in Iraq, are hoping this week to shift the national security debate to the North Korea missile crisis and to countering terrorism.

Two Senate committees and a House committee will hold hearings in coming days on how to prosecute Guantanamo Bay terror suspects. The panels will address the recent Supreme Court decision rejecting the Bush administration's use of a military commission to try the detainees.

GOP lawmakers are already accusing some Democrats of favoring ``special privileges for terrorists" by praising the high court ruling.

Milligan goes on to explain how Republicans are sure they can spin North Korea as a Republican plus, a Democratic minus. See, it's an international crises, and that's always good for Republicans, ain't it, even when they are the ones responsible for the crises?

Polls this spring showed Democrats tied or even slightly ahead of Republicans on the question of whom voters trusted more to battle terrorism and keep the country safe, and Democrats insist they can make the issue theirs by election day.

But Republicans are now seeking to strengthen their public image on national security by seizing on North Korea and the Supreme Court ruling, as well as the decision by several newspapers to report on an international bank surveillance program that the US government is using to track the finances of suspected terrorists."

Okay, here's their winning strategy. They're going to run against Democratic doubts that it makes sense to deploy a missile defense system there is no evidence works as yet, against a free press, and against Democratic desires to coddle terrorists.

I can also tell you that based on what I saw, watching the two committee hearings held thus far on the Hamdan decision, that the Democrats are ready to fight on this one, although you'd never know from Dana Milbank’s coverage of the Judiciary Committee's Tuesday hearings, which will be the subject of our next post.

What the hearings, thus far, have confirmed is that "National security" needs to be the context for all political discussions of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, and I mean by that the specific policies of this Republican administration and this Republican congress, which have failed to secure "the homeland," failed to win precisely those hearts and minds we were told we needed to abroad, failed to vanquish the Taliban because it failed to offer the kinds of aid Afghans needed to turn their country, which had become the very definition of a failed state into a working society, failed to keep North Korea from producing weapons-grade plutonium because it mistook having an attitude for having a policy, created an impossible-to-rescue Clusterfuck in Iraq, and the list could go on and on.

Please feel free to add to it in comments.

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