Part IIRed_State_Blue

Reflections on a House Divided

Part II
The View From Square One:
Searching for answers in all the wrong places?
I. Ken Mehlman

If anything, the results of the election demonstrated that - forceful, accurate,  and substantial criticism of the means, timing, and motivations of his critics - by the President and as undertaken on a regular basis - is at least as vital for the renewal and furtherance of the conservative movement as "bipartisanship," and "compromise."

Two weeks after the election is enough time for some perspective to be had on the analyses and remedies put forth in its aftermath. Among the primary lessons then drawn by Ken Mehlman  was that
"...Republicans must "try to work where we can on a bipartisan basis with Democrats," while maintaining conservative principles." -- Bush Policies Will Not Change Mehlman: Three Lessons in GOP Losses
This is solid advice as far as it goes, and particularly if, more often than not, the Democrats in question are of the "Blue Dog" - i.e. conservative - variety, as the majority of those newly elected  are - or claim - to be. But to take the results of election as a call for general and pervasive bipartisanship and compromise - as some may understand statements such as those of Mr. Mehlman's to mean - is to misread them, and to do so in ways that may not only threaten to undermine the conservative foundations of the party, but to expand further, rather than narrow, the distance between the actual desires of the voting public and what they - that public - believes a Republican administration to be capable of achieving. Fore, if there has been one factor amongst those affecting the public's view of this President, his administration and their party, which has been consistent over time, it has been that pertaining to whether - and how often - the President has replied thoroughly to his critics publicly - and has done so by going on the offensive - rather than by passively expressing the arguments that support his policies  - regardless of how cogent such arguments might be or how clearly  they may have been expressed. As - for whatever reasons -  a generally shrinking attention span, an unthinking scepticism of the authenticity of any life occasion unleavened by a car-chase and/or a shootout, etc- the public at large has become uninterested, unmoved and unconvinced by factors  such as sound reasoning, enlightened self-interest, ethical merit and plain common-sense, per se. But, when these factors have been combined - in the President's discourse - with forceful, accurate,  and substantial criticism of the means, timing, and motivations of his critics, the public's response has been favourable indeed, and has been so on every such occasion he has taken that tact  - with the exception of the days right prior to the election just past - when even those persons most sympathetic to that  message could not help but feel that -- too little of such was being offered too late (1).

On the other hand, as illustrated by the results of opinion surveys taken in the direct aftermath of the resignation of Sec. Rumsfeld, and on other, similar, occasions - in terms of relative political stature - giving in. or being seen as giving in. to the demands of, and pressure by, ones political opponents, gains one nothing but derision and distain - even while increasing the prestige of those  opponents who are perceived to be forcing one to do so (2).

In addition, studies conducted shortly after the election also indicated that - though there is dissatisfaction with the course of the war thus far, and those sentiments had been expressed in the election's outcome - they were more then balanced by a general sense of anxiety over the extent to which extremist positions on the war and national security might be reflected in the measures promoted by the Democrats in Congress once they assume the majority in January. In fact fully 79% of those surveyed expressed concern that Democrats may move to withdrawal troops from Iraq too quickly, while "Another 69 percent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration "from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism," and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals." -- Bush approval drops, Democrats' goals backed: poll

The good news then is that: a. the results of the last election cannot help but make the President and his staff examine their options anew,  b. there are clear signs that the President will not yield on the issues most important to him - particularly as related to national security and the war - regardless of the shift in congress (3), c. the Democrats in particular, and the left in general, have provided such a "target-rich" environment - of actions, statements and publications - made heedless of how such might affect the course of the war: encourage the enemy, discourage our existent and potential allies, and hurt the moral of our serving men and women (not to mention endanger their lives by publicizing classified military documents, plans and operations-in-progress) - so that one can hardly miss the mark by taking aim at them, and that,  they - the Democrats and their allies - once "hit" are, and will be perceived to be, richly deserving of any injury thus inflicted (4), and  d. there are two years left in which a more aggressive strategy of that kind  might be adopted.

There is little likelihood that the world-wide terrorist threat can be contained by purely defensive measures. Hence some version of the current strategy of  "forwards engagement" of the enemy "on his own turf" will have to be sustained in order for our nation, our allies and our common liberties to be protected and preserved. And, at this point, and for some time, amongst responsible and knowledgeable analysts. regardless of their opinions on the decisions leading to our intervention in Iraq, and the way that conflict has been managed since its inception, there is general agreement that - any precipitous withdrawal will from our engagement there will lead to disaster dwarfing the current state-of-things as they are there now - and do so for all concerned but the Jihadists (5). It is crucial then for the sake if success in the  conflict long-term - as well as for the future of the American conservative movement in general -  that the right lessons be drawn from the recent Republican electoral defeats. And, to be so, those lessons must include the  fact that: as has also been widely noted, this was not a defeat for conservatives - real or self-styled - as  conservative democrats comprised the mainstay of their parties success - but for the Republicans cum Republicans, and how their message on the war and other conservative issues - e.g.  immigration, deficit spending, etc. have been communicated to and perceived by the American people (6). And, much of the publics perception of the course of the war has clearly been shaped so far by the fact that - all too often - the President has not laid out his message on that conflict in the way the public would be most receptive to it - i.e. by answering his critics in their own terms and by use of their own methods - that is, by attacking their means, timing, competence and  motivations as they do his own. Therefore the assumption that -- an overriding and encompassing bipartisanship on matters related to the war --  is: a demand made by the American people, directed primarily at the President and his party, and expressed unequivocally in the results of the latest election, is one that is not only dubious, but quite possibly dangerous to the safety and well-being of this nation and its people as well. Compromise - between the President, his usual congressional allies, "newly-minted" Democratic conservatives, and any willing to go along with the fundamentals tenets of a decisive and forward-looking policy on the war and security - should be welcome. But, even in order for initiatives of that kind to succeed, the consequences of their failure and the identity and methods of those seeking to undermine their objectives - must be exposed for what and who they are. And so, attempts at cooperation among those honestly dedicated to winning the war must go hand-in-hand with a consistent and public exposure of the real and evident disregard that many Democrats and liberals have shown  for the success of the war, the security of the country, and the lives and safety of our serving men and women. They most be held responsible, and is only by doing so that an effective policy on the war can be fully developed and implemented.

1. This naturally raises questions pertaining to the reasons why this strategy hasn't become standard over the last 6 years - particularly given its effectiveness when utilized, as evidenced by the immediate and at times persisting spike in the president's approval ratings which has accompanied almost all occasions when it has been employed. I believe though that careful examination would reveal that the "usual suspect" - political expediency - plays a much less central role in his decisions concerning such matters than many may assume - particularly many among those who consider themselves to be politically sophisticated (see The War at Home: Constructive Critique and the Matter of Faith
2. Bush approval drops, Democrats' goals backed: poll
The title of the cited article is itself telling, as the statistics on voters concerns over possible defeatism and obstructionism by congressional Democrats would seem every bit as news-worthy as their support for some of that parties core proposals in other areas.
Bush Policies Will Not Change  
White House intent on Bolton for U.N. envoy

4. This is just a mere sampling of an immense body of material, and one to which my own contribution is - barely - the merest speck - helpful perhaps mostly for the numerous links displayed therein to other sources. The range of the material listed deals largely with issues ranging from: a. the almost unfathomable effort of many Democrats and the left to block all attempts to develop and implement a viable missile-defence system, and to do so even after the threats from Iran and North Korea became known, unmistakable, and apparently impervious to all diplomatic remedies, b. the willingness of the same - liberal - factions to fight tooth and nail against all and any attempts to shore up homeland security through the kinds of surveillance and monitoring that has been absolutely normal during most of our nations major conflicts, c. similar inclination towards presenting a public image of divisiveness and uncertainty to our nations enemies and allies alike, through sustained, persistent and viperous, public critique of the administration's war-time policies - one which can only serve to undermine the moral of our serving men and women and allies, while encouraging the terrorists in their belief that - they only have to survive and keep some level of activity to win - as we have not the heart and courage to sustain a protracted struggle against them (as demonstrated by our withdrawals in Vietnam and Somalia). Not to mention the fact that, for the reasons mentioned, up until the end of the VN conflict, public excoriation of war-time policy by opposition politicians was not generally indulged in (a tradition that - somehow - does survive in a few democracies-at-war - see Still lessons to Teach). repeated unauthorized disclosure and publication of classified material pertaining to contingency plans for military and security operations, as well as the details of operations them underway, e. blood-libel of our serving men and women - holding them guilty of crimes not yet investigated at the time of disclosure, f. failure to leave the military to deal with such matters under security conditions - so as not to inflame foreign nationals against our military personnel in general, so as to - doubtlessly - contribute to the toll of American dead and wounded, g. virtually giving the terrorists the form of victory they most desire in the near term - by explicitly seeking a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.
 Before it Rains
Detrimental to Your Health
Alice, Joseph, Oliver, Come Home! We Need You!

Face of the Enemy
The Method
Lynching Our Soldiers  
For the Record
Hollow Nation
Betrayed Us Twice
What the Democrats are Telling Us - is About Themselves
Pay No Attention to That Grey Lady Behind the Curtain
Shell Game
The "Gift" That keeps on Giving
5. N.Y. Times: Quick Iraq Withdrawal Not Good
Pentagon panels sees three options in Iraq: report
Kissinger: Iraq Military Win Impossible
Given that, in the same article, Dr Kissinger Cleary rejects the kind of withdrawal many democrats are now urging, as with other articles cited, this stories heading seems to be expressive of something other than journalistic balance.
6. The Right Coalition: Which bipartisanship will Bush choose?

Mary Matalin Calls Election ‘Last Gasp of Liberals'

(C) David Aronin 2006