Sunday, January 21, 2007

How we Lost, Why We're Still Losing and What We Need To Do To Prepare To Win

Many opinions have been stated as to why the GOP lost the '06 election. But a simple and straightforward analysis points to one reason for the downturn, one starting with Katrina and continuing, unfortunately, until today. Although few mention Katrina as a reason, they should, at least in one way - It was then that the GOP, not just the President - pretty much the entire party - decided to cave. And contrary to popular opinion, it's not like there was nothing to answer. In fact, a simple look at the facts, something that no one chose to do, reveals the contrary.

Before Katrina there were several other hurricanes. Democrats and the media (excuse the redundancy) started asking whether global warming was causing these hurricanes and whether this was a result of "Bush's environmental policies" (as a side note - they'd have been better off asking whether this was the result of Europe's environmental policies as, unlike Europe, the US remains a net absorber of CO2). They were looking for any reason to "blame Bush" and Katrina gave them their chance. The glee of some of these people in the face of a national disaster was sickening, but so was the lack of any Republican response.

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't serious problems with bureaucracy which result in a lack of priority with regard to saving human lives and that both parties have come to embrace this dangerous absurdity, though in fairness Democrats call this bureaucratic garbage prime rib while Republicans only consider it french toast. But take the facts of this case at hand. Every other disaster of this kind has been handled first by state agencies with federal management coming in well after. In fact, the response to Katrina was the fastest FEMA had ever acted. And that would still be totally inexcusable were it not for the fact that the Governor of Louisiana had herself requested a 48 hour delay to give state troops time to act before FEMA arrived - something which was only mentioned by the media 6 months later and then only once. Aside from that, contrary to popular opinion, Mike Brown, was far from unqualified. Aside from a stellar career as a lawyer, he was possibly the most qualified person to assume the position of FEMA Director, having served as Deputy Director for years before. He may have been horrendous in front of the camera, while trying to do media interviews in between running from site to site with little sleep (something he should have never been allowed to do - just one example of the GOP's PR problems), but referring to him as an Arabian Horse Trader would be the same as calling Bill Bradley nothing but a basketball player or defining anyone else by what their side hobbies happen to be.

But instead of mentioning any of this the President apologized. And Republicans did nothing to counter the prevailing - and largely false sentiments. But while apologies may have worked for Clinton, who the media fawned over - as he was of their party and more specifically, their wing of it, they are used as fodder when offered by this President. Yet instead of any Republicans accusing Democrats of what they were actually doing - politicizing a national tragedy, they instead chose to cave. The media could hardly believe their good fortune and so the skewing began. Pretty soon they were conjuring up pictures of this being the worst response ever, even slower than the "Federal Response" of 1906 (when San Francisco had a large military population who of course, were on site at the time of the quake - no Federal Troops were actually "sent"). And the more the GOP was unable to respond, the more the media skewed the situation.

Well this attitude started then and didn't let up. In fact, with the exception of Newt Gingrich and some notable others, it still continues today. You'd think our lack of response to the media's outright distortions of Katrina would have taught the party something about Iraq. Don't you think?! Well, not from anything we've seen. In media interview after media interview, Congressional Republicans refused to talk about the issue. Well, all that did was cement the impression that they were wrong. Yet had they just stated the simple facts: that Saddam had 12 years to comply with resolution after resolution, that President Bush had himself given Saddam over a year to response since the first threat of military action, that all that Saddam had to do was allow full military inspections and that failure to act would have made our threat of action obsolete in other areas (forever foregoing any hope that diplomacy could work with Iran, North Korea or anywhere else not scared stiff by what would have been a track record of empty words). Add to that the true, simple and plain facts that UN weapons reports documenting each weapon Saddam had in '91 and the small amount that had been destroyed - showing that what had until then been the world's fourth largest army still had plenty of weapons, that while no nukes had been found enough sarin, VX and other gas weapons had been as well as 500 tons of unenriched uranium, 1.8 of which had been enriched according to the New York Times and that sanctions before the war were inhumane and hurt the population while doing nothing to Saddam and you might have had the Democrats yelling as to why Bush didn't go in sooner and gave Saddam warning after warning until the end, while all that time gave Saddam a chance to hide gas weapons and other artillery that were clearly documented by the UN, hadn't been destroyed according to their reports and were now in Syria or Libya according to most of the intel community (of course the President was right to allow some time for diplomacy, but you get my point).

And it's not just Iraq and Katrina. It seems that GOP leaders have lost the ability to answer for themselves. When the Foley scandal broke it was clear that GOP leaders knew nothing more than bland emails that even the parents of the page who received them didn't see fit to report, just to raise concerns. The only people who knew about the disgusting IMs were the page who received them and the Democratic operatives who held onto them until the right time, the ones who gave them to ABC News. Yet Democrats, in true Machiavellian fashion, sent out a memo to operatives that no difference should be made between the IMs and the emails (which is the same as saying there's no difference between a leaky faucet and the Niagara Falls) and because no one paid attention the strategy largely worked. House Republicans, instead of pointing out the absurdity and the slanderous nature of the Democrat's innuendoes, started fighting among themselves - another example of how pointing out the simple truth would have helped.

And never mind GOP offense, which again can be accomplished by simply pointing out the obvious (how Democrats have no plan with regard to national security other than despicably using it as an issue to distort for political gain, how they go back and forth between wanting to raise taxes and not - for fear of losing support - and how they have no coherent ideas on any major issues. And that's just for starters). Republican leaders seem resigned to caving on every major issue when all that's needed is to coherently explain the reasons for their positions - reasons which most people don't know not just because the media won't mention them but also because GOP leaders have yet to explain them. This has to change and herein lies the key to what must be done.

Along those lines: It's really funny to see Democrats proclaiming how we must open up the lines of communication, as if they're not the party that's politicized natural disasters and national tragedies and that have skewed the facts to turn the public against a war at the expense of national security. For all their talk about implementing the "9-11 Commission Report" and not without criticizing the GOP for the disgraceful Dubai Ports deal (which was originally approved largely to ensure the UAE's continued cooperation in the fight on terror - but at too absurd a price), you can be sure that had the Democrats been in control on 9/11 nothing anywhere near the sort of the revamping of security and intelligence that happened under the President would have happened with them. But it's a shame to see that the GOP refuses to point out any of this. GOP leaders need to begin to point this out.

Lastly, the party that will attract the broadest amount of support will be the one that proposes ideas that are most beneficial for the country overall and that resonate with the Middle Class. This is how the GOP increased its base dramatically during the 80s, by being the "Party of Ideas." The Democrats accomplished something along those lines by voting to lower student interest rates. They failed miserably in this area the same week by voting to end the tax breaks to oil companies in a way that would be directly passed on to consumers (leaving aside the fact that fuel taxes are exponentially higher than the profit that oil companies receive per gallon, if they wanted to effectively raise taxes on oil companies they could have done this in a way that didn't transfer to consumers, possibly with a windfall profits tax). But there are more important areas that will resonate with voters on a greater level such as the need for alternative sentencing and to stop making career criminals out of nonviolent offenders (especially since radical Islamic groups have been recruiting felons on mass), or the need to have more government research into truly alternative medicines, not those that seem popular today but hold little promise. Add to that the right for parents to be able to choose alternative medical treatments for sick kids when such treatments have a track record of effectiveness spanning hundreds of years. The party that advocates these initiatives, ones which are guaranteed to resonate with the electorate, will have shown itself to be the new or renewed "Party of Ideas." Though any and all parties that advocate these issues will be doing a needed service to the country and will be rewarded for it, we can certainly hope and take steps to ensure that it will be the GOP. This is the second key to moving forward.

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