Paul Waldman: "Republicans Help Terrorists"
The truth is that in 2006 and 2008, if Democrats can just stay even with Republicans on national security, they should win in a rout since they have wide advantages on almost every domestic issue. And for the first time in years, the public does in fact rate the two parties essentially equal on matters of war and terrorism. But if Democrats want to win on national security—not just stay even, but win—they have to be tough. And not tough in the way Democratic centrists have been thinking about it for a while—“If I say I stand with Republicans on every war, I’ll look tough”—but tough in a way that demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the nature of toughness, both with foreign enemies and domestic opponents.
The first step is to address Republicans the way they usually address Democrats: with ridicule and contempt.
Last week, Orrin Hatch said that terrorists are “waiting for the Democrats here to take control, let things cool off and then strike again.” I can just see bin Laden, deep in a cave on the Afghan-Pakistani border, saying to Ayman al-Zawahiri, “Ayman, did you see the latest poll from the 7th congressional district in Colorado? I think Ed Perlmutter could pull it out, Allah be praised!” Hatch’s statement may be ridiculous, but it’s not unusual. In fact, we hear virtually the same thing from Republican voices all the time: not just that Democratic policies are unwise, but that terrorists actively support Democrats, and Democrats actively sympathize with terrorists.
Think about what happened when Osama bin Laden released a videotape just days before the 2004 election. John Kerry said it showed that Bush should have caught bin Laden at Tora Bora. Bush’s allies said it showed that bin Laden supported Kerry.
The truth, of course, was just the opposite. As Ron Suskind reported in The One-Percent Doctrine, when the bin Laden tape was released, CIA officials agreed that bin Laden was actually doing what he could to aid Bush’s re-election. The terrorist leader is many things, but stupid is not one of them. He understands that Bush is not only the perfect symbolic foil for him, but that Bush’s actions, most particularly the invasion of Iraq, were exactly what bin Laden had been hoping for. Bin Laden knew his future depending on having George W. Bush to kick around for a few more years.
So Democrats need to say just that: When Bush invaded Iraq, he answered Osama bin Laden’s prayers, and everyone who thinks the war was a good idea has al-Qaida’s gratitude. Furthermore, if a Republican wins the White House in 2008, bin Laden and Zawahiri will be popping the champagne. Don’t imply it, say it: Republicans help terrorists.
It seems that there are more people waking up to this fact every day, but that's no reason to sit on our hands. We've got to go on the offensive, and make the Republicans have to defend their anti-American positions.
There's more there at TomPaine.com, and it's worth a read. Check it out if you get a chance.