Sunday, April 13, 2008


Here's a real kneeslapper from the new Frank Rich column, about what's likely to happen with regard to Iraq starting in 2009, even if John McCain wins:

A Republican president intent on staying the Bush course will find his vetoes unsustainable after the Democrats increase their majorities in Congress in November. No war can be fought indefinitely if the public has irrevocably turned against it.


No, wait -- I think he's serious. I think he really believes the Democratic Party would have the intestinal fortitude to rebuff an Iraq Forever policy on the part of a McCain administration. And I think he really believes that sooner or later public opinion would be so difficult to ignore that even a war-happy Republican White House would have to to sit up and take notice.

Apparently Frank Rich has been in a coma for the past two years.

Rich comes so close to understanding what's going on that it's frustrating to watch him completely miss the point. Here he quotes Senator George Voinovich at the Petraeus-Crocker hearings -- after which he draws precisely the wrong conclusion:

"The truth of the matter," Mr. Voinovich said, is that "we haven't sacrificed one darn bit in this war, not one. Never been asked to pay for a dime, except for the people that we lost."

This is how the war planners wanted it, of course. No new taxes, no draft, no photos of coffins, no inconveniences that might compel voters to ask tough questions. This strategy would have worked if the war had been the promised cakewalk. But now it has backfired. A home front that has not been asked to invest directly in a war, that has subcontracted it to a relatively small group of volunteers, can hardly be expected to feel it has a stake in the outcome five stalemated years on.

But that's not a bug, that's a feature. The strategy is working; it hasn't backfired at all. There's no draft and no war tax, so even though the public is overwhelmingly against the war, people still aren't angry enough to become true one-issue voters (we know this is true because McCain really can win), much less take to the streets to scare the crap out of the political class.

The likely result of the November elections will be a McCain win accompanied by a slight uptick in Democratic representation in Congress. The latter "victory" will be tempered by the fact that far too many of the Democrats will be timid centrists, and by the fact that the McCain win, even if it's by an eyelash, will be portrayed as a stunning rebuke to those who said the country had utterly rejected the Bush foreign policy (whereas, in fact, it will actually be a repudiation of the Democratic nominee based on GOP character assassination centered on tangential, trivial issues, and probably coded racism or sexism).

Making sure that a lot of Americans don't have any skin in the Iraq game was a well-crafted strategy to keep discontent from boiling over even if things went very, very badly. The strategy worked. I'd say it's still working.

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