Right now, especially in the key battleground states, Democrats need to be speaking with a clear, consistent voice about the Iraq War. What we don't need is more thumb-in-the-wind, try-to-have-it-both-ways behavior that reinforces the image of Democratic Party ambivalence on the issue. Sadly, in Ohio - the battleground state of battleground states - we are getting a bad dose of high-profile position switching.
In that state's U.S. Senate Democratic primary, one candidate, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D), has been a long opponent of the war, voting against the invasion, working to build opposition to the conflict in the House, and proudly taking that leadership into his candidacy for Senate. The other candidate, Paul Hackett (D), has done his best to try to tap into the growing anti-war sentiment across the country. But strangely, in his five months in the political spotlight, he has changed his position repeatedly. Just look at the record:
7/21/05 - HACKETT OPPOSES TIMETABLE FOR WITHDRAWAL: As some courageous Democrats in Congress continue to push for an exit strategy from Iraq, The Associated Press reports "Although Hackett initially opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a pre-emptive war that 'set a bad precedent,' he now says: 'We're there now...We can't cut and run.'"
10/19/05 - HACKETT DEMANDS DFA MEMBERS SUPPORT ONLY CANDIDATES WHO ADVOCATE FOR A TIMETABLE FOR WITHDRAWAL: Paul Hackett sends a message out to members of Democracy for America demanding they only support candidates who "advocate for a responsible exit plan with a timeline."
10/25/05 - HACKETT REITERATES THAT HE SUPPORTS WITHDRAWAL: Paul Hackett tells Salon.com that "If I were the president, I'd tell the military to figure out how we systematically and in organized fashion get our troops out of there, because the war's over."
11/2/05 - LA TIMES NOTES HACKETT HAS ALREADY SWITCHED HIS POSITION ONCE: The Los Angeles Times reports Hackett, "generally opposed a timetable for withdrawal during his high profile, but unsuccessful, campaign for a House seat during a special election last summer." But "now Hackett has embraced the idea as he faces off in a Democratic Senate primary against Rep. Sherrod Brown, who has endorsed legislation that would require Bush to draft a withdrawal plan by year's end."
11/16/05 - REVERSING HIS REVERSAL, HACKETT NOW ATTACKS THOSE WHO SUPPORT A TIMETABLE FOR WITHDRAWAL: Seeming to forget the message he sent to Democracy for America members just a month before, Hackett is heard at a fundraiser denigrating those who support a timetable for withdrawal. One Dailykos poster who was at the event quotes Hackett as saying timetables for withdrawal "are wrong."
11/21/05 - HACKETT TELLS MAGAZINE A TIMETABLE FOR WITHDRAWAL IS "LUDICROUS": In These Times magazine reports that in its interview with Hackett in early November, "he called congressional requests for a mandated timeline 'absolutely ludicrous.'"
12/4/05 - HACKETT'S SPOKESMAN DENIES REALITY, SAYS HACKETT HAS NEVER CHANGED HIS POSITION: Hackett's spokesman is quoted in the Toledo Blade saying charges that Hackett has been inconsistent on his position on the war are "blatantly not true." He provides no answers as to why in just 5 months, Hackett has now twice changed positions on a timetable for withdrawal.
You'll notice that other than the LA Times piece and the piece citing a quote from Hackett's campaign spokesman, all of these are DIRECT QUOTES from Hackett himself. In other words, the inconsistency isn't a matter of interpretation - it is right out of Hackett's own mouth.
Here's the deal - whether you are for Sherrod Brown or for Paul Hackett in this race, the bottom line is that all Democrats need Paul Hackett to take a consistent position, and not waffle all over the place. Even if he doesn't win his longshot primary bid, Hackett's inconsistency is nonetheless horribly damaging because it is getting out into the media. We've seen what Republicans do to candidates - even those who are veterans (remember John Kerry?) - when they repeatedly switch positions and open up the Democratic Party as a whole to destructive charges that the party has no convictions.
Here's a plea to Paul Hackett (and other Democratic candidates nationwide): please, tell us where you stand on this issue, and don't simply deploy your spokespeople to deny your previous statements - actually come out yourself and explain your very public, very inconsistent statements. Then, when you finally choose a concrete position, please - don't once again change it a few days later in front of a different audience. It's just too important an issue, in too important an election in 2006.