Democratic political strategist Pat Caddell is one angry man. His is not the anger, however, of a typical partisan, seething at his opponents and gloating in their defeat on November 7th.
Rather, Mr. Caddell is furious with the Republican leadership for allowing his party to win both houses of Congress at what he rightly sees is a desperate moment in our nation’s history. President Bush and what is left of the GOP on Capitol Hill and around the country would do well to heed this skilled operative’s critique – and the insights it provides for the way ahead in such a dangerous time of war.
On Sunday, before a capacity crowd at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Restoration Weekend in Palm Beach, Florida, the former advisor to George McGovern and Jimmy Carter depicted the election as one the Republicans lost more than the Democrats won. Above all else, the GOP failed to run on the issue that resonated most effectively, not only with their own base but with independent voters and even some Democrats: the grave nature of the conflict we are in, and the extent to which the Democratic Party and its senior officials cannot be trusted to manage it.
Far from making this case forcefully, consistently and at every level of the 2006 campaign, the Republicans allowed their opponents politically to define the “war” strictly in terms of Iraq. Such a dumbing-down of the subject – largely ignoring the global threat posed to the entire Free World by Islamofascists and their enablers – had several undesirable effects.
For one, it allowed widespread public frustration with the Republicans’ management of the battle for Iraq to obscure questions about the Democrats’ competence on national security matters. For another, it created incentives for our enemies in Iraq (and, for that matter, Afghanistan) to ratchet up their bloodletting.
The Islamists and other “insurgents” knew that blowing up something in America during the run-up to an election would likely have the opposite effect it did in Spain in 2004 – clarifying the abiding danger and hardening our resolve. They calculated that making a concerted effort to blow up as many of our forces, allies and innocent Iraqi civilians as possible, though, would have a similar effect to the Madrid train bombings: It would encourage the coming to power of an opposition that would capitulate, rather than respond with a redoubled effort.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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