In a perfect world, a political campaign would showcase ideas. Candidates would explain what they intend to do and how they intend to do it. Voters would then make intelligent choices and help determine the direction of the country.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it happens.
Out in the real world, when a candidate (say, Sen. Rick Santorum) tries to talk about issues (say, Iran) he finds himself drowned out. His opponent simply insists (over and over) that he “close the Halliburton loophole.” It doesn’t matter that nobody knows what this “Halliburton loophole” is. It only matters that nobody likes loopholes and that most voters see Halliburton as “evil.” Next thing you know, Bob Casey’s in the Senate.
To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, a country votes with the election process it has, not the election process it wants.
That’s a problem, but also an opportunity. In November, people voted for “change,” but they never specified what that change would be, because Democrat candidates never laid out an actual agenda. So as our country prepares to take a different path in Iraq, our leaders are free to pick that path, since they’re not tied down by specific campaign promises.
President Bush has made it clear, repeatedly, that he wants to win in Iraq. His political opponents don’t seem to share that goal.
Consider the liberal lion of the Senate, Democrat Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. He’s introduced a bill that he says would prevent the president from sending more forces to Iraq without congressional approval. This, he says, would force the Iraqis to get serious about defending their own country.
As Kennedy told CNN, “The Iraqis have to be convinced. And they will never be convinced, until you begin to rotate American troops out of the combat.” In other words, the only way for the U.S. to win in Iraq is to leave Iraq.
In case readers think that’s not a fair summation of his position, consider what Kennedy told The New York Times this week. “We [lawmakers] have in previous circumstances impacted troop levels,” he said. And the examples he cited are especially enlightening. “We did it in Lebanon, in 1983, and we did it in Vietnam. This is the power of the purse. Those two examples are very powerful, where Congress has taken action and had a direct impact in the policy direction, and I would hope it would in this one.”
It’s odd that Sen. Kennedy would cite Lebanon and Vietnam as successes. To most observers they were American failures.