"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Democrats: Stronger, More Honest Language is Needed


With your newly regained power in full throttle in congress, it's admittedly more difficult to provide useful political messaging advice on a regular basis. Compared to the days of John Kerry and Al Gore leading the party, the Democrats are much more in-step with how America likes to be spoken to. For instance, Jim Webb is the perfect "voice of the Democratic Party" to give the response to the State of the Union address. In fact, it might be the first time in decades where the response is stronger than the address.

However, there continues to be a serious problem. With the Iraq debacle, while you have come out strongly against the administration's "surge" strategy, there are two major problems with your approach that need to be addressed now:

  1. You aren't being honest with yourselves or with the American people (even though you might think you are): You are not really against a "surge." How can you be? How can you really be against adding reinforcements that our troops so desperately need if they're going to be stuck in Iraq like the President demands? To repeat: if the President is determined to keep our troops in Iraq, then they do need additional support.

    What you actually are -- and should be -- against, however, is the President's leadership and judgment as Commander-in-Chief. So, it's not that you don't support additional troop support, it's that you don't respect the Commander-in-Chief's judgment any longer. This is direct, to the point, politically expedient, and imminently accurate.

    Think about it: If we actually trusted this administration's ability to execute a war strategy effectively, then a majority of people would support this surge. In fact, weren't most Democrats and Generals in support of adding more troops back in 2004? Of course, but that was before we had the unmistakable evidence in hand that this was a confident-not-competent administration.

  2. You are letting Senator Hagel be the mouthpiece of reason to lead the bi-partisan offensive against this administration's war strategy. This is a mistake in the context of rebuilding and recasting the Democratic Party brand with the American people.

    Sure, you burnish your bi-partisanship credentials by walking side-by-side with Hagel, but if you ever want to be in the executive branch again, the idea of a Democrat has got to be more than being decent and reasonable -- Democrats also need to have the strength and conviction to make the tough decisions and stand by them even when they're not bi-partisan.

Here are some talking points to support these ideas:

"Democrats and Americans have had a lot of patience with this administration's ability to conduct the Iraq war. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to express our loss of confidence in their ability to lead our troops to victory. So, for as long as this administration remains in office, we have no choice but to push for withdraw and redeployment. Due to the failed policies of this administration and the failed Republican congress of the past four years, we are unfortunately left with no better options for our brave men and women."

"Most Democrats and Americans would prefer that their government conduct itself in a bi-partisan, pro-American manner. And to show this commitment, Democrats have quickly established bi-partisan partnership in our campaign against this President's Iraq strategy. Let's be clear, though: The Democratic-led congress will not be bullied or threatened by an administration that has lost support both here and abroad. Not since Nixon has an administration's credibility been so tarnished by getting so many things so wrong, and all the while abusing the trust and power we, the people, entrust with this great office."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Democrats in Power, But Powerful?


Finally, you have some political power. And almost instantly, you have a problem. And it's a big one.

Before we figure out how to solve your big problem, there's good news -- OKR is back to help for the majority of 2007-2008. A quick note for those who think that "Karl Rove" is no longer politically relevant: Recall that Our Karl Rove helped the Dems win the mid-term elections, as compared to Their Karl Rove, who helped the 'Pubs lose the mid-term election.

And OKR has a plan to get you out of the little political pickle that is the Iraq War and your new responsibilities to deal with it.

First, the pickle explained: Americans voted you into power primarily due to their unhappiness with this administration's -- and prior congress's -- failure to effectively prosecute this war. These voters want this war to come to an end -- who can blame them? On the other hand, the reality is that we just can't pick up and leave a country we invaded in order to stabilize. Simply leaving abruptly (within 6-10 months) is likely to have adverse affects that would even further damage our global reputation with our allies and enemies.

In essence, the public wants instant gratification, and the country can hardly afford to screw up the entrance and the exit. Democrats were elected to resolve this discrepancy.

The Responsible Democratic Political & Messaging Strategy

  • Do not talk about what power you don't have ("It's up to Bush, he's the Commander-in-Chief); talk about the power you do have ("Democrats now how power to cut off this President if he doesn't make decisions good for America")
  • Don't make predictions about the war. You weren't elected to know everything; you were elected to solve problems better than Republicans could. Focus your message on how you're going to responsibly put this war to rest.
  • Resist talking about committees and hearings; talk instead about using your majority status to finally influence this administration's failed policies.
  • Promise Americans that you will set parameters for all war funding moving forward. This is what your new power affords you, and shows America that you're not hesitant to use the power you have.
As proposed here over and over, you should summarize your Iraq strategy under the Support & Rebuild banner. Support & Rebuild is a much different strategy than Bush's Attack and Train strategy, and would signal a new perspective on the situation. Support & Rebuild means working with the region to support stabilization, and Rebuild means focusing on critical infrastructure, alliances, relationships, and trust. Support & Rebuild has the opportunity, eventually, to not be thought of as a "war" strategy but as a "foreign aid" strategy.

If Democrats can change the face of this from war to foreign aid (before the Republicans do it), then Democrats will get the credit for ending the war quickly, yet not be forced to prematurely exit and risk further middle-east destabilization.