Sunday, August 31, 2003

Dean Continues to Convince on Foreign Policy

Dean's message, that the Iraq War's long term effects on our security are not likely to be positive if we continue going it alone, continues to move public opinion to his side. This is going to be a cruicial issue in '04, of course. The Administration is continuting to refuse any international participation in operational control in Iraq. Their credibility is invested heavily in Iraq and they know it. Good news for us, they have built their fortress on a quagmire. The bad news for us, our nation's credibility and security is in that fortress with them. For that reason, it's a difficult and perilous thing for Dean to attack that fortress.

He is doing it with skill and care. The success he is having is moving public opinion while under whithering fire from the GOP and even attacks from the right and left of his own party over his stance shows he has found effective themes; the credibility of Bush's claims which led us to war, and the long-term effect of the occupation on our security.

With this strong indication that Dean is making headway in foreign and security policy, he's moving inexorably toward putting together a complete package of credible policy with which to take Bush down in '04. Dean's choice of ground in this battle, the stable ground of common sense and sound geo-stategic sense, accounts for much of his progress. Before the election is over I predict that Dean will be popularly perceived as a national savior in foreign policy. The Administration, on the other hand, must contantly shift messages and change postition to keep it's footing on the bog-full of quicksand on which it has choosen to make its stand.

The Administration is finding itself back on its heels rhetorically to defend the Iraq War and occupation. They are resorting anything they can think of, from transparent spin strategies to revisionist history to downplay the significance of our failure to find WMD and the "post major combat operations" death toll. The GOP and the Administration still haven't found a strategy beyond a blunt and pre-rational appeal to 9/11 sentiment to reinforce their claim of the Iraq War's relevance to terrorism. The recent spate of serious bombings is hurting their case that invading Iraq was a way to reduce terrorism; the case is building swiftly that the opposite is the case.

As tragic as the results of the Iraq War and occupation are likely to be for America, the one consolation is that it is the foreign policy Achilles heel of an Administration which is harmful to America in so many ways. Democrats, and Dean in particular, have already made great progress in convincing America that we have the solutions for America's domestic woes - polling indicates a complete collapse for Bush to a 32% approval rate and a whopping 58% disapproval on domestic policy.

Should these trends continue, and I see no reason why they should not, Dean is on the way to building an American consensus on both foreign and domestic policy that no amount of money spent by Bush will be able to disrupt. Softdrink companies outspend Bush several times over every year to shift a few percentage points in nearly meaningless preferences. Bush will not be able to buy a large enough slice public opinion about these vital policy matters to stay in office. Of course, there will always be a segment of the population inclined to favor Bush, as the continuing popularity of the undrinkably disgusting Red Bull indicates, you can sell some people anything if you advertise enough.

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