Mistakes Were Made

In today's New York Times:

Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist, said in an interview: “It’s important for all Democrats to keep the word ‘mistake’ firmly on the Republicans and on President Bush. Senator Clinton has been very clear that we, as a party, should keep the focus on Bush — these were his mistakes. Ultimately that’s very important, not just for her, but for the entire Democratic party.”

Ah, Mark Penn; innerant font of polling wisdom for DLC and HRC alike. His October 5, 2004 op-ed is always worth revisiting:

But after Bush changed his campaign tactics to tack back toward the center, Kerry believed his drop in the polls could be fixed by adding more "edge" to his message. He moved to make his opposition to Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq the centerpiece of his campaign message, a message with tremendous appeal to the Democratic base but whose appeal to swing voters is uncertain. Now there is a renewed opportunity to win back this group of voters who report that they have already definitely decided their vote, but who have repeatedly changed their minds this year. . . .

We might all learn a lesson from Bill Clinton in 1992. He won by making the Persian Gulf War irrelevant to the election. He focused on swing voters, with plans for welfare reform and middle-class tax cuts, and he drove the economy, not the war, as the central defining issue. In 1996 he focused on a plan to balance the budget and cruised to a landslide victory.

The difference between 1992 and 2004 (or 2008 for that matter) is, obviously, that the war was over by 1992, which made it much easier to render irrelevant. The idea that swing voters don't care about the deployment of over 100,000 American soldiers and Marines into a war zone, meanwhile, strikes me as slightly insane. The idea of Mark Penn serving as chief strategist for a presidential nominee (or, worse, a president) should send shivers down the spine of liberals everywhere.