Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Proceed With Caution

That would be my advice to my fellow Democrats looking to exploit the President's lies about uranium and a Saddam-Al Qaeda link. There are those who think the appropriate tag line is "Bush lied, people died." And while this may sound like a catchy little phrase, elegant in its simplicity, it appeals only to a certain group of folks. Over at places like dKos, that line has become a mantra with most of the commenters agreeing that it is the correct response to Bush. However, what they fail to realize is that unlike themselves most Americans supported the war with Iraq. As I have noted before, there are those of us who supported the war whose support was not conditioned upon either an Al Qaeda link (which we had our suspicions about) or a nuclear threat. For us, lines like "Bush lied, people died" just don't ring true. Of course, I feel betrayed by the President and I think he should pay a price for his calculated lies to the American people.
What some of my anti-war colleagues fail to grasp is that what sounds good to them might in fact turn off those pro-war voters who are angry at the President. There is a danger of an echo chamber effect, whereby a small group of folks decide that something is a good idea and because they only talk to others who share their opinions, they feel validated in their judgment. For example, the Clinton impeachment, which was engineered by some angry conservatives who only spoke to one another. Moderate Republicans were aghast at what the Right was doing and the GOP paid a political price in subsequent elections. "Bush lied, people died" is in a similar position- it rouses the base of anti-war Democratic voters, but it may, in fact, turn off moderate and independent voters. Every time we roll out that line, the other side will point to the atrocities of Saddam's regime and question whether we really think it was such a bad thing to take him out. And many Americans will be forgiving of the administration's lies if the options given are leaving Saddam in power or toppling his brutal regime.
I hope that some of my more liberally animated peers will take a step back and think about how the "Bush lied, people died" line is going to play outside of their own hermetically sealed atmosphere. I would prefer that they not take our party down the same road the right wing nuts took the GOP down over impeachment. Take a deep breath, go out and talk to some people who were pro-war, try the line out. And when you see it is polarizing, drop it. Because whether you like it or not, most Americans supported the war.


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