Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Curious Republican Tactic

Confessions of a Liberal Yankee caught this New York Times article by former Reagan administration figure, James Webb, who suggests smearing veterans is not a good Republican campaign tactic. Here's a few paragraphs from the Times article:
IT should come as no surprise that an arch-conservative Web site is questioning whether Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has been critical of the war in Iraq, deserved the combat awards he received in Vietnam.

After all, in recent years extremist Republican operatives have inverted a longstanding principle: that our combat veterans be accorded a place of honor in political circles. This trend began with the ugly insinuations leveled at Senator John McCain during the 2000 Republican primaries and continued with the slurs against Senators Max Cleland and John Kerry, and now Mr. Murtha.

Military people past and present have good reason to wonder if the current administration truly values their service beyond its immediate effect on its battlefield of choice. The casting of suspicion and doubt about the actions of veterans who have run against President Bush or opposed his policies has been a constant theme of his career. This pattern of denigrating the service of those with whom they disagree risks cheapening the public's appreciation of what it means to serve, and in the long term may hurt the Republicans themselves.

Not unlike the Clinton "triangulation" strategy, the approach has been to attack an opponent's greatest perceived strength in order to diminish his overall credibility. To no one's surprise, surrogates carry out the attacks, leaving President Bush and other Republican leaders to benefit from the results while publicly distancing themselves from the actual remarks.
During the 2000 primary season, John McCain's life-defining experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam were diminished through whispers that he was too scarred by those years to handle the emotional burdens of the presidency. The wide admiration that Senator Max Cleland gained from building a career despite losing three limbs in Vietnam brought on the smug non sequitur from critics that he had been injured in an accident and not by enemy fire. John Kerry's voluntary combat duty was systematically diminished by the well-financed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in a highly successful effort to insulate a president who avoided having to go to war.

And now comes Jack Murtha. The administration tried a number of times to derail the congressman's criticism of the Iraq war, including a largely ineffective effort to get senior military officials to publicly rebuke him (Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was the only one to do the administration's bidding there).
Americans have a right to expect better from their politicians. Fortunately, there are still Republicans like Webb trying to take the long view.

1 Comments:

Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

The Republican Party that used to be sold its soul for political victories.

In that long gone body, those on the far right fringe — people like Joe McCarthy — were considered by many in both major parties to be the unloved minority in the minority party.

As such, radical-right types developed the discipline and ruthlessness of the interest group with little to lose and everything to gain.

Ronald Reagan's campaign strategists, Roger Ailes and Lee Atwater, were from that strain. They demonstrated their bomb-throwing, scurrilous attacks and dirty tricks could deliver victories, especially if ebellished with hyperpatriotism and fronted by a candidate with a winning smile and smooth delivery.

Today, people of their kind and worse control the Republican Party and the country. They use their considerable power to pursue a self-perpetuating policy of anything to win. Decency, honor, honesty and fairness play no part.

2:57 PM  

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