Good post by Matt Browner Hamlin at The Right's Field about this excellent Tom Schaller piece in the Baltimore Sun. Both Hamlin and Schaller note the astounding dearth of references to the Iraq war by presidential candidates at CPAC. Schaller suspects that the omissions may be rooted in the same factor that has so far made Rudy Giuliani the frontrunner:
Here's my theory for why Mr. Giuliani is ascendant: It's not so much because he triggers memories of the horrific day in the fall of 2001 when the terrorists attacked, but that he reminds Republicans of the fall of 2002.This is, of course, pure fantasy on the part of Giuliani and his supporters - but as I've said many times before, fantasy is Giuliani's strong suit. The entire Republican party seems ready to slip back into happy illusions about the days when Americans believed that the GOP was the party of national security and they're hoping the general public is willing to come along for the ride - Iraq be damned. As Hamlin puts it:
That autumn, the Republicans were at their zenith. In September, President Bush had given a moving speech on the first anniversary of 9/11. The next month, the Republican-led Congress passed the Iraq war resolution. A month later, Republicans won the midterm elections. Mr. Bush was popular, Democrats were scrambling for cover, and Republicans controlled the entire national government for the first time in a half-century.
Then came the war in Iraq, which Mr. Bush insisted was the central front in the global war on terror. By coupling Iraq with the broader war against terror, "The Decider" eventually turned the GOP's advantage on terrorism into a liability.
Mr. Giuliani is presenting himself as "The De-Coupler" - the candidate who allows Republicans to magically transport themselves back in time to a pre-Iraq era, when their terrorism credentials could still be wielded as a lethal, single-edged sword.
Not only are Republicans forced to run away from Bush, they have to deny that the last five years have taken place and whitewash the results of their failures of leadership in the war against Islamic terrorists.Et viola! If you want a Grand Unifying Theory of This Week's Posts at A&S, it's this: Rudy Giuliani commands the Republican field because he is a champion in the war of perception. Schaller makes the same observation:
Pretending Iraq never happened is tough. It was abundantly clear at last week’s conference, however, that the conservatives’ capacity for self-deluding, avoidant behavior may prove to be Mr. Giuliani’s greatest asset.It's a depressing scene, like watching a balding and pudgy 40-year-old man squeeze into his high school letter jacket. But there you have it.
He suggested that, much as America's former enemies from World War II are now allies, and the former communist states are rapidly becoming our friends too, the goal of the war on terrorism should be to win the hearts and minds of the terrorists who hate us.Remember how in 2004 all the conservatives were insisting that it wasn't enough for John Kerry to say we'd stop the terrorists - he had to say we would "kill" the terrorists. Imagine if he'd told people that "we have to pursuade them"! We'd still be hearing about it!
"We have to stop them, and then we have to persuade them," Mr. Giuliani said.