Richardson's Ploy to Lead the Surrender Party

In a gambit to end-run Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) is calling for a complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq—and quickly.  Richardson, trailing in his party’s presidential sweepstakes, is anxious to gain traction and move out front by upping the ante in the Democrats’ debate over how far the United States should go in cutting and run from Iraq.
 

Richardson made his case for a fast exit on the eve of the release of the Petraeus Report in an op-ed he penned yesterday for the Washington Post.  If his ploy succeeds, it may boost his prospects short-term or better position him for his party’s Vice Presidential nomination.  Overcoming Hillary Clinton’s financial and organizational advantages will be a tall order for any of the candidates.  But even if Richardson’s arguments fail to advance his fortunes, they may succeed in dragging the Democrats further left on Iraq, this at a time of improving realities there and when public perceptions are shifting favorably. 

Richardson is making his play at a moment when the Left is grumbling increasingly about Democrats equivocating on Iraq.  Good news from Iraq is bad news for the Left, which is deeply invested in America’s failure there.
 

Enter the New Mexico Governor, who sees an opportunity to pick up critical support on the Left.  Ideologically rigid and reflexively anti-American, the Left furnishes the Democrats with passion, cadres of grassroots activists and plenty of dollars.  Its muscle and sinew makes it critical to candidates throughout the nominating process.  Contenders for the Democratic nomination can ill-afford to be on the wrong side of the Left’s major litmus test for 2008.  Iraq is that test.  But the art or trick for the candidates is not to move so far left as to alienate General Election voters, a majority of who are well to the right of the Democrats’ base.

Richardson’s article was a pure distillation of the Left’s arguments for an American retreat and surrender in Iraq.  With its call for hightailing it, it was red meat flung to the party’s base.  Of course, what it lacked was the Left’s hallmark anti-Bush and anti-American invective, but that’s a small concession by the Governor to appear statesman-like.

Reading Richardson’s assessment gives one the sense of looking in a rearview mirror: it describes an Iraq roiled by sectarian and ethnic violence; a quagmire where American troops are fighting a no-win war.  But it’s hard to decide how far back one is seeing in the mirror: to Iraq of past months or to Vietnam, as mythologized by the Left.

Nowhere in the piece does it mention The Surge’s initial success.  Ditto the progress in Anbar Province or the tribal chieftains who have joined American forces against Al-Qaeda interlopers.  And not one word about the decline in general violence.  To narrow minds, minds preoccupied with self-serving agendas, when reality can’t accommodate fantasy, it is reality that gets the boot.

The Governor trotted out the Left’s shopworn contention that peace can only come to Iraq when America withdraws and when diplomacy and negotiations are used to engage regional powers in settling differences there.  Given Syria’s and Iran’s clandestine support of the insurgents, terrorist sponsorships globally and track records for lying, one suspects Richardson is wearing blinkers to mollify his audience.  One can only hope so.  And never mind that diplomacy and negotiations, absent the use or threat of force, rarely resolves armed conflicts justly.  The over-emphasis on jawboning and words on paper are the Left’s all-purpose solution to every threat to American national security.  No matter how dishonest or despicable the nation’s enemies, open-ended talks, along with vacuous promises and shaky guarantees from them, win the day.

Richardson, in his eagerness to get American troops out of Iraq pronto, suggests negotiations with the Turks to open an escape route through their country.  Such would make the logistics of cut and run far more expedient, if not more ignominious.

Politically and strategically, this dash to the hard left by the Governor is fraught with peril—for the Democratic Party.  If progress continues to be made in Iraq, the Left’s arguments, already losing credibility, will become not merely irrelevant, but an albatross hung around the neck of the party’s presidential nominee and, down-ballot, around the necks of its Congressional incumbents and candidates vying for election in competitive districts and states.  The Republican nominee, and the Republican Party, whatever its faults, will be perceived by voters as having been right on Iraq.  And with the advantage of hindsight, broadly, voters will again see the Republican nominee and his party as defending and advancing America’s national security interests in the face of major threats and through daunting adversities.

In the old days, before the revolution in communications technologies, intra-party, presidential candidates had the luxury of making appeals designed to capture the support of the hard core.  The dialogues, the squabbles, the pleadings and the promises were, mostly, family affairs.  But, today in politics, family affairs are public affairs, thanks to the internet, 24/7 cable news and talk radio.  Candidates can’t so easily cut loose from their earlier positions or promises to curry favor with the general electorate.  How the Democrats position themselves now on Iraq, and in the coming weeks and months, will be a critical part of the record come the autumn of 2008.

Shortsightedness and overarching ambition are coded in the DNA of too many politicians.  Governor Richardson is a case in point, and he’s certainly not alone.  In the coming days and weeks, watch how Clinton, Obama and Edwards react to Richardson’s Iraq surrender ploy.  If these candidates’ consultants and pollsters register a shift among the Left favorable to Richardson, expect to see movement by them toward the Governor’s position.  How much movement is the question, and that will depend on the Left’s discontent.

And if the Governor’s arguments have staying power, expect those candidates to continue traveling left, determined not to be outflanked.  But if the news continues to be good from Iraq, the price of outflanking Governor Richardson may just be a General Election defeat.
In a gambit to end-run Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) is calling for a complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq—and quickly.  Richardson, trailing in his party’s presidential sweepstakes, is anxious to gain traction and move out front by upping the ante in the Democrats’ debate over how far the United States should go in cutting and run from Iraq.
 

Richardson made his case for a fast exit on the eve of the release of the Petraeus Report in an op-ed he penned yesterday for the Washington Post.  If his ploy succeeds, it may boost his prospects short-term or better position him for his party’s Vice Presidential nomination.  Overcoming Hillary Clinton’s financial and organizational advantages will be a tall order for any of the candidates.  But even if Richardson’s arguments fail to advance his fortunes, they may succeed in dragging the Democrats further left on Iraq, this at a time of improving realities there and when public perceptions are shifting favorably. 

Richardson is making his play at a moment when the Left is grumbling increasingly about Democrats equivocating on Iraq.  Good news from Iraq is bad news for the Left, which is deeply invested in America’s failure there.
 

Enter the New Mexico Governor, who sees an opportunity to pick up critical support on the Left.  Ideologically rigid and reflexively anti-American, the Left furnishes the Democrats with passion, cadres of grassroots activists and plenty of dollars.  Its muscle and sinew makes it critical to candidates throughout the nominating process.  Contenders for the Democratic nomination can ill-afford to be on the wrong side of the Left’s major litmus test for 2008.  Iraq is that test.  But the art or trick for the candidates is not to move so far left as to alienate General Election voters, a majority of who are well to the right of the Democrats’ base.

Richardson’s article was a pure distillation of the Left’s arguments for an American retreat and surrender in Iraq.  With its call for hightailing it, it was red meat flung to the party’s base.  Of course, what it lacked was the Left’s hallmark anti-Bush and anti-American invective, but that’s a small concession by the Governor to appear statesman-like.

Reading Richardson’s assessment gives one the sense of looking in a rearview mirror: it describes an Iraq roiled by sectarian and ethnic violence; a quagmire where American troops are fighting a no-win war.  But it’s hard to decide how far back one is seeing in the mirror: to Iraq of past months or to Vietnam, as mythologized by the Left.

Nowhere in the piece does it mention The Surge’s initial success.  Ditto the progress in Anbar Province or the tribal chieftains who have joined American forces against Al-Qaeda interlopers.  And not one word about the decline in general violence.  To narrow minds, minds preoccupied with self-serving agendas, when reality can’t accommodate fantasy, it is reality that gets the boot.

The Governor trotted out the Left’s shopworn contention that peace can only come to Iraq when America withdraws and when diplomacy and negotiations are used to engage regional powers in settling differences there.  Given Syria’s and Iran’s clandestine support of the insurgents, terrorist sponsorships globally and track records for lying, one suspects Richardson is wearing blinkers to mollify his audience.  One can only hope so.  And never mind that diplomacy and negotiations, absent the use or threat of force, rarely resolves armed conflicts justly.  The over-emphasis on jawboning and words on paper are the Left’s all-purpose solution to every threat to American national security.  No matter how dishonest or despicable the nation’s enemies, open-ended talks, along with vacuous promises and shaky guarantees from them, win the day.

Richardson, in his eagerness to get American troops out of Iraq pronto, suggests negotiations with the Turks to open an escape route through their country.  Such would make the logistics of cut and run far more expedient, if not more ignominious.

Politically and strategically, this dash to the hard left by the Governor is fraught with peril—for the Democratic Party.  If progress continues to be made in Iraq, the Left’s arguments, already losing credibility, will become not merely irrelevant, but an albatross hung around the neck of the party’s presidential nominee and, down-ballot, around the necks of its Congressional incumbents and candidates vying for election in competitive districts and states.  The Republican nominee, and the Republican Party, whatever its faults, will be perceived by voters as having been right on Iraq.  And with the advantage of hindsight, broadly, voters will again see the Republican nominee and his party as defending and advancing America’s national security interests in the face of major threats and through daunting adversities.

In the old days, before the revolution in communications technologies, intra-party, presidential candidates had the luxury of making appeals designed to capture the support of the hard core.  The dialogues, the squabbles, the pleadings and the promises were, mostly, family affairs.  But, today in politics, family affairs are public affairs, thanks to the internet, 24/7 cable news and talk radio.  Candidates can’t so easily cut loose from their earlier positions or promises to curry favor with the general electorate.  How the Democrats position themselves now on Iraq, and in the coming weeks and months, will be a critical part of the record come the autumn of 2008.

Shortsightedness and overarching ambition are coded in the DNA of too many politicians.  Governor Richardson is a case in point, and he’s certainly not alone.  In the coming days and weeks, watch how Clinton, Obama and Edwards react to Richardson’s Iraq surrender ploy.  If these candidates’ consultants and pollsters register a shift among the Left favorable to Richardson, expect to see movement by them toward the Governor’s position.  How much movement is the question, and that will depend on the Left’s discontent.

And if the Governor’s arguments have staying power, expect those candidates to continue traveling left, determined not to be outflanked.  But if the news continues to be good from Iraq, the price of outflanking Governor Richardson may just be a General Election defeat.