Thanks to Iraq successes, Democrats having to “refocus” their Iraq message

Ha. I love it:

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq’s diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom’s Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush’s policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war’s progress. The first installment of Petraeus’s testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.

At the same time they are reluctantly praising the successes of our military (in a lame attempt to show ‘support’ for them), they’re also trying to figure out how to temper their messages so as not to upset their anti-war cut and run base (emphasis added):

For Democratic congressional leaders, the dog days of August are looking anything but quiet. Having failed twice to crack GOP opposition and force a major change in war policy, Democrats risk further alienating their restive supporters if the September showdown again ends in stalemate. House Democratic leaders held an early morning conference call yesterday with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), honing a new message: Of course an influx of U.S. troops has improved security in Iraq, but without any progress on political reconciliation, the sweat and blood of American forces has been for naught.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) made a round of calls yesterday to freshman Democrats, some of whom recently returned from trips to Iraq and made news with their positive comments on military progress. “I’m not finding any wobbliness on the war — at all,” Emanuel said.


Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), who made waves when he returned from Iraq by saying he was willing to be more flexible on troop withdrawal timelines, issued a statement to constituents “setting the record straight.”

“I am firmly in favor of withdrawing troops on a timeline that includes both a definite start date and a definite end date,” he wrote on his Web site.

But in an interview yesterday, McNerney made clear his views have shifted since returning from Iraq. He said Democrats should be willing to negotiate with the generals in Iraq over just how much more time they might need. And, he said, Democrats should move beyond their confrontational approach, away from tough-minded, partisan withdrawal resolutions, to be more conciliatory with Republicans who might also be looking for a way out of the war.

“We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning,” he said, adding, “I don’t know what the [Democratic] leadership is thinking. Sometimes they’ve done things that are beyond me.”

And the GOP is on the offensive:

The burst of effort has been striking, if only because Democrats left for their August recess confident that Republicans would be on the defensive by now. Instead, the GOP has gone on the attack. The new privately funded ad campaign, to run in 20 states, features a gut-level appeal from Iraq war veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, pleading: “It’s no time to quit. It’s no time for politics.”

“For people who believe in peace through strength, the cavalry is coming,” said Ari Fleischer, a former Bush White House press secretary who is helping to head Freedom’s Watch.

Captain Ed writes:

The Democrats have been outmanuevered again on Iraq. Earlier this year, they took 108 days to come up with a funding formula that wouldn’t get vetoed by the Bush administration, thinking that they could dictate terms to the White House. They found out, as the Republicans did in 1995, that Presidents are never irrelevant. He played “chicken” better than the Democrats, who swerved rather than allowing funds to run out on the troops, and gave Bush what he wanted in May.

It looks like September will bring more swerving. Even leading Democrats acknowledge that Petraeus has produced some stunning successes in Anbar and Diyala. Most people considered Anbar a lost cause, but Petraeus and his forces have freed the province of its terrorist oppressors and created a political movement of Iraqi unity called Anbar Awakening, which continues to spread. Barack Obama suggested yesterday that Baghdad could use another 30,000 troops.

Now that their predictions of military failure have have died, the Democrats want to focus on the lack of political reform as a reason to leave. In January, they talked about how futile it was to play “whack-a-mole” when terrorists would simply move back and forth, and that the American and Iraqi forces could not clear and hold territory. Since that’s been proven wrong, they now claim that the current Iraqi government cannot possibly institute the reforms Congress demands, such as oil revenue sharing and the forgiveness of former Ba’athists. Unless Iraq succeeds in these reforms as a sign of unity, we should withdraw, the argument will go.

Yes, the old “changing the goal posts” tactic we so often see from Democrats.

Petraeus’ report next month will probably be the most anticipated report since David Kay’s WMD report. Rest assured that the anti-war contingent already have their arguments against a continued prescence in Iraq ready, regardless of what Petraeus reports. As we know all too well, their main goal from the get go has been failure in Iraq, to ‘prove’ that they were right about the President’s ‘wrongness/lies,’ and they’ve done so in hopes that a loss in Iraq would/can do maximum damage not just to him, but Republicans and “traitor” Democrats who supported the Iraq war.

It’s going to be interesting in the coming weeks and months to see how Democrats try to balance showing ‘support for the troops and their successes’ with the anti-war ‘we must come home now’ speeches they’ve got to give in order to maintain support with their base. This kinda reminds me of what Senator Chuck Schumer said back when the tug of war was going on over the war supplemental spending bill earlier this year:

Schumer, of New York, said Democrats want to keep pressure on the administration to change its Iraq policies while keeping money flowing to the military.

“We will try to come up with a way by talking with the White House, trying to compromise with the White House that both supports the troops and yet changes the strategy in Iraq,” Schumer, 56, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program.

Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard quips:

One thing that is incredibly ironic about the whole situation is the sudden shift toward criticizing Iraqi politicians for doing nothing. Given the fact that our Congress under Democratic leadership is pretty well doing nothing, I don’t think that is a really great tactic for the Democrats.

Yeah – and they’ve got the ‘historic’ all-time low ratings to prove it.


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