alien & sedition.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
  "A Black Hole for the Republican Party"

Robert Novak in the Washington Post today: The "surge" strategy already looks FUBAR, as the Maliki government refuses to acknowledge the sectarian violence committed by its Shiite allies, and the Iraqi PM remains silent about the Bush plan.

Result? Republicans fleeing for political shelter.
"Iraq is a black hole for the Republican Party," a prominent party strategist told me this week. What makes his comments so important is that he is not a maverick Republican in Congress but one of Bush's principal political advisers.

As they adjust to the 2006 election returns, Republicans recognize that this was no isolated bump in the road. The loss of about 320 state legislative seats across the country to the Democrats classifies last year's election as a midrange electoral disaster.

The internal Republican debate concerns how much Iraq contributed to this outcome. The White House and Republican members of Congress who voted for intervention in Iraq contend that many issues led to their defeat: incompetent management of the Hurricane Katrina crisis, widespread cases of corruption and abandonment of spending restraint. But Republicans at the grass roots tell me that Iraq was the central problem and must be erased as an issue. [...]

One nationally prominent Republican pollster reported confidentially on Capitol Hill after the president's speech that if at the end of the year U.S. troops are still in Iraq and U.S. blood is still being spilled there, the GOP disaster in 2008 will eclipse 2006. Thus, many Republican members of Congress have tied their hopes to Bush's pledge that Iraqi forces will take over local security by September.

But Republican opposition has intensified rather than diminished since the president's speech. What was whispered privately is now declared publicly. At last week's hearing, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's second-ranking Republican -- Chuck Hagel -- called Bush's new strategy "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."
Republicans are beginning to learn from their mistakes. But they face a twofold problem. One is that the window in which Iraq can be "erased as an issue" before the '08 election cycle is vanishingly small, if it still exists at all.

The other is that the reasons for the Republican defeat in '06 were more than the sum of their parts. Iraq was the issue, and it's true that the GOP possibly could have withstood the pressure of all their other failures were it not for the war. But the vast incompetence and mendacity embodied in and symbolized by the Iraq war acted as a binding agent and a political catalyst for all those other screw-ups: Katrina, corruption, deficits, ideological zealotry: bringing them together and lighting them up to form the narrative of the modern Republican Party: Corrupt, incompetent, out of touch with reality. Having made the mistake of the Iraq war, the Republicans now find that war highlighting all their other mistakes as well.

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