Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Lorie Byrd
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Posted: Sep 15, 2006 12:00 AM
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

For a couple of years now, Democrats have licked their chops at the prospect of taking back the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections. For much of that time it seemed the Democrats were well positioned to pull off the feat. Democrats have made some huge mistakes, though, and according to polls released this week, it appears they are paying for them.

There are several issues that are playing prominently in the upcoming elections. Iraq, national security, immigration, and gas prices are a few of those ranking as top concerns of voters. On those and other issues, instead of coming up with a bold plan to address them, Democrats have relied on Republicans to fail.

Much of the good news that some new polls are showing for GOP congressional prospects are due to renewed attention to issues relating to national security. As the September 11 anniversary and the President’s series of speeches focused attention on the issue of fighting terrorism and defending America, the opposition of Bill Clinton and his former administration officials to the ABC drama, The Path to 9/11, reminded Americans of the failures that led to that day.

In the past, Americans have known more about what Bill Clinton pulled out of his pants, than what Sandy Berger stuffed into his. That might have changed somewhat this past week though, as Berger’s high profile opposition to the ABC movie focused attention on his actions both before and after 9/11.

Some Republicans are making sure the attention of the American people stays focused on national security. Majority leader John Boehner drew criticism from Democrats this week when he said, “I listen to my Democrats friends, and I wonder if they are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people.” Speaker Dennis Hastert said Capitol Hill Democrats are confused about who the enemy is.

Although Democrats cried foul, some votes and positions taken by Democrats on issues such as the NSA surveillance program and the Patriot Act provide some support for the statements.

Democrats were sure the Iraq war would be their silver bullet in 2006. They believed a failed Bush policy would be enough. What they did not do was come up with a plan of their own. In the absence of any coherent, unified plan, on Iraq or national security, some of the more outrageous comments from Democrats filled the void.

Some of the positions Democrats in Congress have taken on issues of national security have been politically harmful, but high profile celebrities closely identified with the Democratic party have also provided plenty of ammunition to the GOP. Earlier this week, actually the day after September 11, Rosie O’Donnell made the comment that, “radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America." Appearing on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss Rosie’s statement, Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz admitted that the comment was shocking and that it would likely reflect badly on Democrats and could hurt them at the polls.

Later on the same O’Reilly show, Arianna Huffington was asked about the Iraqi Kurds’ ad thanking America for freeing them. Huffington said it was propaganda and that the situation of the Kurds had not changed at all since America invaded Iraq. When O’Reilly pointed out that under Saddam’s regime the Kurds were brutally persecuted, Huffington’s response was “So what.”

Although Rosie O’Donnell and Arianna Huffington are not candidates, they are identified with the Democratic party. When that party fails to put forward an identifiable plan, comments like those from O’Donnell and Huffington, as well as from others, such as Cindy Sheehan, receive increased attention.

The five year anniversary of September 11, the President’s announcement of information obtained from terrorists held in secret CIA jails, and a series of very good speeches have captured voters’ attention at the same time many were just beginning to follow the campaigns leading up to the November elections. Voters will take that, and other information, into account when they determine which side of the decision-making equation they want their leaders to fall in this post-9/11 world. I am betting that most will come down on the side of those candidates more concerned with preventing the murder of innocent Americans than those placing a higher priority on the rights of terrorists.