18 January 2007

Is the Audience Merely the President?

Filed under: Ktismata — ktismatics @ 1:24 pm

President Bush is trying to rally Congressional support for his Iraqi surge. Refering to a resolution co-sponsored by 3 Senate Democrats opposing Bush’s plan, White House spokesman Tony Snow asks:

“What message does Congress intend to give? And who does it think the audience is? Is the audience merely the president? Is it the voting American public or, in an age of instant communication, is it also al-Qaida?”

In a statement announcing her decision to support the resolution, moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe said, “Now is time for the Congress to make its voice heard.” Carl Levin (D-Michigan), one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, said:

“Just how serious this resolution is, although it’s not binding, is reflected by the fact that the Republican leader in the Senate has threatened to filibuster it.”

Why does a decision about war turn into a debate about “message”? When the seriousness of a message is measured by the opposition’s willingness to talk it to death, we know we’ve got trouble in Washington.



  1. The “message” is the craft of the politician. It is the brush and the paint used to create the portrait.

    What is the politician saying? How is s/he voting?

    Where does the politician stand on the issue? Well, look at what s/he has said. And take a gander at the voting record.

    Message is all they have. Message is what they are. They are making themselves into who they will be. They are what they say they are.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 18 January 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  2. By the way nice to see a political post.

    For my part, I think it is quite clear that the war must be escalated. What happens if we cut and run? If we leave Iraq to terroists from Iran/Syria? Or just allow civil war to rip the country apart and then let another thug dictator take over.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 18 January 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  3. Here’s my punditry, for what it’s worth: The Democrats know they won the Congress because everybody’s sick of the war. They also know the war is unwinnable. If they act to aggressively to stop Bush’s latest efforts, they’ll get blamed when the inevitable failure finally occurs. Then McCain gains new life in the 2008 race. So the Dems will allow the war to continue at more or less the same pace it is now. Things might get worse, but the main thing is that they won’t get better. And then Bush is down for the count and McCain goes down with him. Once the Dems win the presidency they’ll be able to say the loss was Bush’s fault. Then they can cut and run with impunity.

    My complaint about “message” is that politics is all about posing for the crowd on both sides of the aisle. It’s not about decision and truth and justice; it’s about impression management.

    As for escalation, I’m convinced it won’t work. I’m sure most of the Dems and Republicans suspect so too. If it was my call? Cut and run, no question. There has never been a time during this war when cut and run wasn’t the best move we could make — starting with before the war started.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 January 2007 @ 7:40 pm

  4. It is hard for me to imagine a scenario where an escalation of the war will not result in victory.

    If I am correct on this (and by default you are wrong!), then that means that the Dems will be in a really bad spot. Really bad. As you say (more or less) is the simple fact that the Dems are politically invested in U.S. defeat. The Repubs are invested in U.S. victory.

    The problem, of course, is that when you have so much political capital invested in one side or the other is that to admit you are wrong and reverse course is nearly impossible from a political perspective. This, in my view, is what makes Bush much more admirable than his counterparts accross the aisle (not to mention the thin weeds we call “moderate Republicans” who just lean whichever way the wind is blowing). Bush took responsibility for any perceived mismanagment of the war and set a new course. It wasn’t the course that the left wanted to see, but nonetheless Bush still changed directions.

    Bush really doesn’t have all that much to lose, either. He is gone in two years. He honestly believes that the war on terror is being fought, to a large degre, in Iraq and he believes that it is critical to win here. So, he is doing what he thinks is right. Contrast that with Dems who voted for the war before they voted against it. Who support the troops, but not the war. Who support the troops, but not the mission. Who support the troops, but want to cut funding. Who criticize the Bush plan but have never presented anything worth analyzing that would replace it.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 18 January 2007 @ 8:54 pm

  5. 2006 was the first election I didn’t even vote. I think the Dems are implicated in this fiasco right from the beginning, when they signed on to that transparently cooked-up war rationale that Colin Powell, to his shame, served up on Bush’s behalf. Then for the Dems to blame Bush for mismanagement and to side with the generals who criticized Rumsfeld for being too optimistic about troop levels? Instead of blaming Bush for criminal deception and recognizing the generals’ disaffection as the usual military sabre-rattling? I couldn’t believe it. If they really believe their own rhetoric they ought to go along with Bush’s surge.

    I give Bush absolutely zero credit for being consistent or for thinking he’s right. I think he’s a more dangerous crook than Nixon and the worst president in my lifetime. That the Democrats never stood up and condemned this war, and that they still won’t stand up even when the American public seems finally to be fed up with it, I find reprehensible. But they’re not nearly as reprehensible as Bush who got us into this mess.

    I think all the scenarios in Iraq are bad. Some Dems believe that something can be salvaged by staying the course, but the situation continues to deteriorate. Some probably really do think an escalation will work. Others think American occupation of Iraq is part of the problem so we should get out of there ASAP. So I think the waffling reflects a true lack of consensus in the party. It’s just hard to believe that we can’t fix this thing somehow. I honestly don’t think we can.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 January 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  6. Ktismatics,

    Can I ask why you didn’t vote? In Australia you can actually be fined for not voting. Its considered mandatory. But I like to vote in fact its a kind of privlage. I get surprised when I hear of people not taking up there right to have their say.



    Comment by Ivan — 29 January 2007 @ 7:33 am

  7. I was so disappointed in the Democrats’ failure to condemn the war that I couldn’t bring myself to vote for them. I suppose I should have gotten a ballot and left the spaces blank for the Congressional candidates — then perhaps my vote would have been counted in the “neither candidate” column as a weak protest vote.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 January 2007 @ 8:08 am

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