Monday, July 30, 2007


The Republicans blew it in 2006, and most people don't think 2008 looks very good for them, but I'm beginning to be concerned about their aggressive 2007 campaign.

Obviously 2007 isn't an election year at the national level. But it's clear that, whatever else the selling of the surge may be, it's yet another political campaign at the White House, one the Bushies seem to be treating as a do-over of 2006 and a table-setter for 2008. Although his name rarely comes up in connection with the surge, I think this is Karl Rove's last campaign, and he's determined not to go out a loser.

Ratcheting up the war, repeatedly invoking 9/11, spotting terrorists on the horizon, and saying that Democrats are extremists who want us all dead are old tricks, but they're uniting the base yet again. (Immigration battle? What immigration battle?) And that recent New York Times poll that showed increased support for the invasion suggested that maybe a few non-Republicans are drifting rightward, too. (The Times/CBS polling unit was so surprised by that result that the question was asked again of a new set of respondents. The numbers were the same.)

And today, of course, the surge has inspired Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution to proudly embrace liberal hawkery again in a stay-the-course New York Times op-ed titled "A War We Just Might Win." These guys have never truly given up on the war, but Pollack, in particular, has at times been sheepish about his pre-war mistakes. But now they clearly feel they can be full-throated about their support for the war once more. They look at the White House's stubbornness in clinging to the surge and see a way to get their own dignity back; the White House looks at them and sees a way to divide the opposition party into "responsible" Democrats and weirdo-freak war opponents. It's win-win. Expect the Pollack/O'Hanlon piece to be cited by every war supporter who talks into a microphone for the foreseeable future; expect pundits everywhere to start asking whether all those damn war opponents running for president on the Democratic side are just a bunch of dirty hippies.

All Rove et al. want to do is keep it close until the general-election campaign begins. I hope I'm wrong, but they may be succeeding at that.

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