One Way Or Another

I wouldn't bet my life on it, but I'm pretty sure Atrios is right and the Republican nominee is not, in fact, going to be running on a commitment to end the war in Iraq. Predictions aside, though, it's worth noting that a significant faction of Democrats have persistently believed that the Bush administration was about to begin withdrawing from Iraq ever since 2004.

After three years of that forecast being perpetually wrong, it's now been displaced onto Mitt Romney or John McCain or whomever. Since this idea is so persistent, I think it bears mentioning that it's part of a pretty contradictory set of beliefs. The conventional wisdom, in essence, holds that running stridently against the war spells political doom for the Democrats. It also holds, however, that running stridently against the war is unnecessary because the Republicans will end the war anyway. Meanwhile, the Republicans are supposed to be doing this for political purposes.

These things can't, however, all be true. And, indeed, I think time has proven that the Republicans basically think the "doves are doomed" theory of politics is correct. They attribute their loss in 2006 to corruption and (hilariously) to "earmarks," attribute their wins in 2002 and 2004 to "toughness" and think that it always makes sense politically for the GOP to mark itself off as more militaristic and nationalistic than the opposition. My guess is that the persistent belief that Bush would end the war was driven by a fear that this theory is correct; it's a form of wishful thinking. But people should get over it. The war is, in fact, unpopular. The GOP is, in fact, determined to stay robustly to the Democrats' right on the war. The job facing Democratic politicians and operatives is to learn how to win the argument, not to dream up reasons why that won't be necessary.