Thursday, January 3, 2008

Don't let them change the subject; the war goes on

That image, courtesy of the Defense Department, is just a reminder of what's happening on the other side of the world as we count the caucus votes in Iowa.

The caucus-eve New York Times reported:

Even though polls show that Iowa Democrats still consider the war in Iraq the top issue facing the country, the war is becoming a less defining issue among Democrats nationally, and it has moved to the back of the stage in the rush of campaign rallies, town hall meetings and speeches that are bringing the caucus competition to an end. Instead, candidates are being asked about, and are increasingly talking about, the mortgage crisis, rising gas costs, health care, immigration, the environment and taxes...

The campaigns are moving to recalibrate what they are saying amid signs of this changing backdrop; gone are the days when debates and television advertisements were filled with references to Iraq...

Part of the shift appears to stem from the reduction in violence in Iraq after President Bush’s decision to send more troops there last year. Mrs. Clinton, who once faced intense opposition from her party’s left over her vote to authorize the war, now is rarely pressed on it, though Democrats say it continues be a drag on her in this state. Senator John McCain, a strong proponent of increased troop levels, is off of the defensive and now positions himself as having been prescient about what would work to quell the violence.

“You see much more concern about the economy,” said Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist. “You see much more concern about health care. When we started it was principally concern about the war, and now it’s a mix of war, the economy and health care.”

Alex Castellanos, a senior strategist for Mr. Romney, said much the same thing was happening on the Republican side and suggested that it may have contributed to the success of Mike Huckabee, the Republican former governor of Arkansas...

We must not let them change the subject.

It's the war, stupid.

Most of the candidates would be happy to talk about something else. It was encouraging that DNC Chair Howard Dean mentioned the war at the top of the short list of issues where Democratic and Republican candidates are at odds. But someone should make sure to tell the candidates that.

That, my friends, is up to us.

As they continue the campaign and ask for your support, your help, your vote, and your money, remind them that getting out of Iraq is still a priority.

Challenge the candidates. Confront them. Put them on the spot. Make them uncomfortable. Keep the issue in front of the voters.

There may be a temporary reduction in violence in Iraq, but there is no exit strategy and not even a plan to begin withdrawing troops, except in the vaguest sort of way proposed by Gen. David Patraeus, who made it clear that could be revisited and changed at any time. A new assessment is planned in March. I suspect we'll learn that the general has been spending some time cuddling with Rosie Scenario.

Don't let them take the war off the table. Call it an occupation, if you prefer; I don't care what you call it, but when the military is killing people every day I tend to think of it as a war.

It's got to stop. We've got to stop it.

Need ideas? Iraq Moratorium #5 is in two weeks. You might start at that website.

Or do something else.

But do something.

We'll all feel better if you do.