Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Attention Deficit Disorder

A little while back, I wrote a post that argued that Republicans are not the right party to lead us in the War on Terror because their ideological leanings are counterproductive toward defeating the threat we face. Furthermore, the longstanding perception by the public that Republicans are "strong on defense" paradoxically makes the situation worse: Republicans know they don't need to make the tough (ideological and political) compromises necessary to make our nation secure to achieve the political benefits of being the security party, so they don't.

It is in that context that I think Kevin Drum's latest post really nails the situation on the head. He quotes two liberal pundits (very liberal in fact, they're Matthew Yglesias of the American Prospect and Brad Plumer of Mother Jones) criticizing the Democrats for ignoring national security now that the election is over. To quote from Plumer:
The second point is that liberals—and Democrats especially—have said nary a word about the future of the military lately. John Kerry may have been the first to suggest expanding our active-duty forces, but no one's said anything since. So the Democrats not only have fed the perception that they make national security proposals only when they need to look "tough" on the campaign trail, but they've also absented themselves entirely from an important debate.

Drum agrees with this argument (as do I). But he asserts that the problem is at least as bad on the Republican side of things:
But the reason this struck as an odd complaint right now was that just last night I was reading through various news articles about the upcoming legislative session, and here's what the Republican agenda appears to be: privatizing Social Security, enacting tort reform, restricting immigration, getting started on tax reform, and cutting the Pentagon budget. As near as I can tell, with the election over and the intelligence bill successfully neutered and shoved under the carpet, Republicans have as good as forgotten that the war on terror even exists anymore.

Republicans ready to engage in boastful triumphantalism about how Democrats are puny and weak on National Security need to start backing their words with deeds. Unfortunately, having absorbed the lesson that rhetoric is all it takes to convince the American public that Republicans care about security, the odds of them actually using up any of that famous political courage we've been hearing about are quite slim.

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