It's becoming ever more clear that Republicans are planning to put the Dolchstosslegende at the center of their 2008 strategy. Consider, for instance, Eli Lake's op-ed in today's New York Sun, "welcoming" Senator Brownback back into the anti-anti-war fold. Brownback, who has been waffling artlessly on the escalation, ultimately came out against the latest anti-surge resolution in the Senate:
In prose Vice President Cheney might use, he said the Reid resolution, which lost 50 to 48, played directly into the hands of Al Qaeda. Today, the senator's campaign Web site says the situation in Iraq is "precarious, but hopeful."Of course, it was in fact the Iraq war itself that has played directly into the hands of Al Qaeda - succeeding beyond Osama bin Laden's wildest dreams. But bracket that. Here's Brownback, for one, embracing the Dolchstosslegende. Lake argues that the Senator flipped because he didn't like the Democrats' timetable - and because he was frightened of Hugh Hewitt-esque backlash against anti-war Republicans. One might suggest that Brownback's change of heart in fact had a lot more to do with the latter than with the former.
In other words, Messrs. Hewitt and [Mark] Levin, along with such figures as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Reagan, are defining the base. While taxes, immigration, and values are important, this year the war trumps all. The people who will show up in New Hampshire and Iowa to pick the Republican nominee are victory voters.Now, if I were a Republican strategist, passages like this would have me buying Tums by the carton. The GOP's presidential candidates are gambling that a year and eight months from now, the American public will still be in the mood to hear their leaders yakking about the need to stay the course in Iraq. Even worse, the Republican field is, apparently, beholden to the political strategy advice of people like Hugh Hewitt, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh.
Hence for all of their flaws, the big three contenders for the Republican prize talk about winning in Iraq. Mayor Giuliani may be too left on the social issues. Senator McCain may be too much of a lick-spittle to the liberal press. Governor Romney may be too new to the struggle. But none of the three wants to sabotage the mission the way the liberal Democrats do. It was Mr. Brownback who sputtered on the war, and when it became clear that it was not a winning course, he made a course correction.