09/27/2005 05:04 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Iraq Burns; Dems Look on the Bright Side

If you need yet another reminder why the Democrats continue to teeter on the verge of becoming a permanent minority party, I suggest you pick up the Boston Herald and watch CBS News.

At the same time the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, with CBS reporting on the "undeclared civil war" raging between Shiites and Sunnis and the Saudi Foreign Minister telling the world that Iraq is "going toward disintegration," there was John Kerry giving a speech arguing that "progress" was being made. As the Boston Herald put it, Senator John Kerry "back-pedalled on blistering criticism of the war."


Andrew Gumbel's latest HuffPost turns a flashing red spotlight on why we need to reform our voting systems. But even the most corruption-free voting system in the world isn't going to help Democrats if they keep offering up candidates who make the kind of absurd pronouncements on Iraq Kerry did this week.

It's the clueless candidates, stupid!

This is not about rehashing the '04 debacle (for that go here and here). It's about an object lesson in what not to do and say. Whether the Democratic standard is being borne by Kerry or Hillary or Biden or whoever else comes out of the pack, the party needs to stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

The winning strategy for Democrats in '06 and '08 needs to be fueled by a willingness to go after Bush's supposed strengths -- his ability to keep us safe and wage war on the terrorists. And how can you do that if you refuse to speak honestly about what is going on in Iraq -- indeed, if you end up using the White House's own talking points on the war?

The president likes to nutshell his "strategy for success in Iraq" by saying. "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." And there was Kerry yesterday at the Park Plaza hotel in Boston: "There is some schedule showing what you (need) to do to get Iraqis standing up and defending themselves which is now suddenly beginning to happen, so there are some signs of progress."

"Suddenly beginning to happen"? "Signs of progress"? Tell that, Senator, to CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, who reports that "there is a secret, ruthless cleansing of the country's towns and cities. Bodies -- blindfolded, bound and executed -- just appear, like the rotting corpses of 36 Sunni men that turned up in a dry riverbed south of Baghdad."

Kerry's comments echoed his infamous Grand Canyon declaration that even if he knew that there were no WMD in Iraq he still would have authorized the use of force in Iraq. This equivocating blast from the past is important because it was no accidental slip but a strategic decision fueled by the Kerry campaign's obsession with not upsetting America's fence-sitting voters.

This timid, step-on-no-toes approach will soon be on display once again in "Inside the Bubble," a new behind-the-scenes cinematic look at the Kerry camp. As reported by Lloyd Grove, the documentary's press release says the film shows a campaign team "that thought they could win by 'not making mistakes,' and keeping their candidate in the public eye without clarifying a position on anything."

Sounds like an absolute must-see for any Democratic kingmakers. If they learn nothing else from sifting through the ashes of '04, it's got to be that their candidates can't try to have it both ways -- paying lip service to opposing Bush's disastrous policy in Iraq while offering no alternative strategy.

Democrats lost in 2004 despite having just about everything that mattered go against Bush: Abu Ghraib, the rising insurgency, the 9/11 Commission finding no link between Saddam and al-Qaeda, the Duelfer no-WMD report, and Osama returning to the scene at the 11th hour looking tanned, rested, and ready to rumble.

And here they are, making the same damn mistakes again. Iraq is going up in flames, 60 percent of the country wants to go in a "significantly different direction than Bush" [pdf], and John Kerry wants to look on the bright side of the war.

Forgive me while I tear my hair out.