It appears that the Republican Party has decided on the Iraq War to be the centerpiece of its mid-term election campaign. While this stroke of mad genius is, of course, a specter of concern to Democrats, the relief is that it could have been much worse. Hidden sources report that the other plan debated was whether to base the Republican campaign on Hurricane Katrina.
In fact, Republicans considered combining the two issues and running on both Iraq and Katrina. The Democrats could have folded their tents then and there.
(There is an unsubstantiated rumor that the G.O.P. also considered bringing back the failed issue of privatizing Social Security - but cleverly tying it together with the other two concepts. The campaign is purported to have been: "When You Can't Trust the Government to Run a War or Save a City...Don't You Wish Your Future Security Was in Private Hands?" This idea appears to have been dropped for being too positive by Republican standards.)
While Republicans think the disastrous Iraq War quagmire is such a potent campaign issue for them, they shouldn't allow themselves to get too giddy just yet. Oh, sure, campaigning on Vietnam was a coup for Lyndon Johnson. And, yes, Herbert Hoover did a spectacular "in your face" to Franklin Roosevelt with his now-famous 1932 campaign touting the Depression. But not every effort to make a positive out of a unfathomably calamitous negative has succeeded in American politics.
After the Civil War, for instance, the Southern states tried to promote national candidates with the campaign, "We're Back with Fresh Ideas!," but it didn't work. Polling at the time (admittedly crude by today's standards) showed that while the public was happy to have the South return, the "fresh ideas" turned out not to be all that fresh. ("Lifetime no-pay contracts for anyone recently emancipated.")
Still, the current Administration is not daunted by such rare occurrences, and are anxiously anticipating the upcoming election. According to the NY Times, "White House officials including the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, outlined ways in which Republican lawmakers could speak more forcefully about the war."
Secret notes from this meeting are rumored to have been leaked to the entire press corps (with every White House staffer assigned five reporters to leak to). Among the ways proposed to be "forceful" are:
1. The Iraq War has helped raise depleted oil prices to unprecedented levels. 2. The Iraq War has boosted employment for American companies, like Halliburton and Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. 3. Of the estimated 43,000 deaths in the Iraq War, only six percent have been American soldiers. 4. The Iraq War attracted terrorists from around the world to Iraq, making the rest of the world safer. 5. Without the Iraq War, it could never have been proven to the satisfaction of the world community that there were no WMDs. 6. The Iraq War gives us a great base from which to launch a nuclear attack of Iran. 7. Under Donald Rumsfeld, the Iraq War has demonstrated that Senior Citizens can occupy viable leadership positions in the work force. 8. The Iraq War has shown that America can fight wars all by itself without outsourcing. 9. The Iraq War has brought to the forefront the evils of torture. 10. So much money has been used up by the Iraq War that there is none left to spend on wasteful government programs.
Without question, there are some Democrats who believe that Republican efforts to campaign on the woeful Iraq War is more than misguided, and they welcome the opportunity to say to their opponents, "Wait, you actually think this is a good thing???!" Other Democratic reactions range from, "No comment, I would prefer to let my opponent talk all he wants" to "Holy Bejeepers!!"
Still, however one feels about this political tactic, anyone must admire such an All-American attitude of facing a disaster in the eye and embracing its positives. Indeed, it is in that very same perspective that a proud tradition of success stories has spread throughout American history, of organizations on the verge of destruction, taking a seemingly crushing negative, addressing it directly and turning it triumphantly on its end.
The White Star Line: "We Built the Titanic. We Understand Icebergs More Than Anyone."
U.S. Army: "It Was Custer's Last Stand, but Can Be Your First. Start a New Tradition in the Army."
Ford's Theater: "Come See a Play at Ford's. Good Seats Available."
Hawaii Tourist Board: "The World Flies to Pearl Harbor. Shouldn't You?"
Union Carbide: "The Environmentally-Friendly Chemical Company. Over $150 million Spent De-Contaminating Bhopal, India."
The Tobacco Institute: "32 Million Smokers Still Alive This Year. And Counting. "
Exxon: "11-Million Gallon Spill? We're Getting Oil to Alaska Any Way We Can."
Atomic Energy Commission: "Protecting America From Nuclear Meltdowns Successfully Since Three Mile Island."