4.24.2007 | Facing down the GOP attack machine

Have Democrats learned nothing from Kerry's 2004 swiftboat debacle? As Democrats try to do what they were elected to do and bring the Iraq war to a close, they are letting the Republicans once again set the tone of the debate. In remarks made after a GOP policy meeting, Cheney accused the Senate majority leader of (gasp!) playing politics.

Sen. Reid himself has said that the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election. It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage.

The fact that Cheney himself is exercising the definition of cycnicism in his comment aside, what about the fact that what gets you votes is in fact the will of the people? You know, a government that's of the people, by the people, for the people? Or at least it's supposed to be.

Even more depressing than Cheney's comment is that it went unchallenged by Democrats, at least in this Associated Press article. Senator Reid's response (if it could be called one):

I'm not going to get into a name calling match with the administration's chief attack dog.

That's a response? It's not enough to say you're being attacked; you have to fight back.

Democrats seem to remain unfamiliar with the new media-driven environment of soundbites, sticking with the old demure way of dealing with things when every article published is a fight for Americans' hearts and minds. And when they do try to go on the attack (calling the Iraq war "lost"), they end up letting themselves be the subject of further attacks (note to Democrats: if Republicans have been using the troops as a political platform for four years, it's time to get out in front of that debate).

Even policy analysts have begun using colorful metaphors in their interviews to capture the country's attention. Democrats need to take a page from their book, or else we're going to let swiftboating continue to define this country's political debate. And surprise, surprise, the GOP is readying radio ads that are going to accuse Democrats of using the troops as a "political football." They would know a little something about that.

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