I'm not sure why it didn't get more attention, but the Washington Post's editorial of last week entitled "Shouldn't Winning the [Afghan] War be Mr. Obama's Top Mission," is in the 'man bites dog" category for me and may indicate a tectonic shift in our political landscape. Perhaps these sentiments wouldn't be noteworthy if they appeared somewhere else (such as this space), but when the Post admonishes this president for a "mixed message", we should think about what it means for America.
The Post quite properly makes clear that winning this or any other war in which the US becomes involved can not simply be A priority for our Commander in Chief but must be THE top priority. In so doing, it takes him to task for the vacillation between war discussion and economic discussion in his speech of last week on the Iraq and Afghan wars.
"But a president leading a nation at war doesn't have the luxury of deciding that the domestic piece of that equation is now his "most urgent task." Mr. Obama might wish that he could pour all of his energies into invigorating manufacturing, reducing dependence on foreign oil, nurturing entrepreneurship and improving education, all of which he talked about Tuesday night. He might wish not to be a wartime president at all. But, as he has said, al-Qaeda has not given him, or the country, that choice.
"If the United States is under attack, it must fight until the danger has eased, not until it decides that fighting has become too costly."
In the first instance, one hopes that the president will heed this advice and give our troops the unconditional support they deserve and they and the country needs for our long term security. This is true in any case, but especially in view of the poor results from his economic program; that is many, myself included, believe that the biggest reason the economy is floundering is the anti-business tone from the Oval Office and Congress, such that 'benign neglect' (apologies to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan) would be a vast improvement.
Equally fundamentally, when such a bulwark of the liberal establishment as the Post expresses such doubts with the direction of a Democratic president, we should all be wondering what this portends. In my estimation, apart from an admirable objectivity and patriotism on the part of the Post as to substantive weaknesses, it reflects a significant weakening of support for him and his program. The Post has been a staunch supporter of President Obama for as long as he has been nationally relevant, and certainly can not be accused of war mongering. One wonders if the actual and attempted terrorist acts of the past year (Ft. Hood, Christmas Day and Times Square) enter into the analysis of the Post.
For it to critique the president's position in terms that quite literally caused me to believe in the first instance that I was reading its "token conservative" columnist Charles Krauthammer, suggests that the Democratic agenda is in serious trouble and that we may be at an 'inflection point" comparable to what we saw in 1994. Put this together with the questions being raised about ObamaCare by an influential Democrat like Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, and about tax policy - i.e. extension of the Bush tax cuts - by a number of prominent Democrats, and it is clear that there is growing unease with the apparent "reset" that voters appeared to request in 2006 and, especially, 2008.
Republicans need to realize that while the wind is blowing strongly in their direction, they must keep it that way by avoiding the sort of extremist image which frightened voters in 2006 and 2008. Voters want practical solutions to their all too real problems and are just as scared of the utopian, redistributionist programs and rhetoric of this administration as they were with the corruption and preoccupation with social issues which did in the party in the last two national elections.
In order to govern effectively, Democrats need to realize that they do not presently have a mandate for a reprise of the New Deal or Great Society. It is debatable whether they did in the wake of the 2008 election, but the electorate does not like what it is seeing and is restive for practical change. In the midst of economic calamity, voters seemingly wanted "hope and change", but don't feel the changes which are being made give them hope for improvement .
The candidates who will prevail in the upcoming elections are the ones who, like the Post, will be in tune with reality.