In late August 2003, the threads of hope that held together the War in Iraq were beginning to shred on a daily basis. The relationship my soldiers and I shared with the Iraqi civilians began to crumble and it was only a few short months before one of our close friends died to the growing violence. So much of this could have been avoided if there had been real leadership in Washington that understood national security.
So, like many other progressive veterans, I was shocked when the Democrats lost the 2004 election, and even more shocked to learn that most of the country still trusted the Republicans more on national security. In August 2003, Democrats lagged by 29 points in this metric.
Today, Dick Cheney and President Obama square off on just this topic.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Democracy Corps released survey earlier this week with results showing that "Obama Closes the Democrats' Historical National Security Gap"
According to the poll:
President Obama's performance on national security has been perceived as so strong that for now, it has effectively erased the deficit on national security that has shadowed the Democratic Party since the Vietnam War. For the first time in our polling, the public sees the Democratic and Republican parties as statistically tied on both "national security" (41 percent trust Democrats more, 43 percent trust Republicans more) and "the war on terrorism" (41 to 41 percent).
Obama's leadership represents a tradition of Democratic Presidents who have a proven effective approach to national security, which includes:
1. support a strong military and be willing to use force to fight our enemies
2. build strong alliances
3. actions taken internationally should uphold American values
This is how we won WWI, WWII, and this is what Obama is doing now by ending torture, engaging the international community, and executing a real strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly, the American public is responding.
These actions have provided progressives an opening to gain a foothold on this issue. But don't think that the Republicans are lying down without a fight...they believe this is THEIR issue!
Remember just a few weeks ago when the Republican leadership began to bang the drum on national security with this ad, asking Americans... "Do You Feel Safer?"
Resurgent Republic, the conservative response to Democracy Corps, is working to find key wedge issues that they can drive home so that regain the national security advantage. Unfortunately, they believe torture, or in their language - "harsh interrogations," is just that issue. They have released their own survey as they work to define this argument.
So while we might have put the Republicans on the ropes, they are preparing to swing back. That is why Cheney is attempting to go back on the offensive by giving his speech today.
As the COO of Truman National Security Project we are working on helping the progressive community lead on the issue of national security. We have recently released a backgrounder on The National Security Case Against Torture to help progressives stay on the offensive. This backgrounder will give you the messaging tips needed to combat the Cheney offensive.
In the darkest hours of World War II, Winston Churchill refused to torture Nazi prisoners in British custody. He rightly feared that institutionalized torture would erode a nation's moral fiber. What we must recognize today is that in the current international security context, the moral question is about more than a feeling of self satisfaction. Rather, the "morality case" against torture is part and parcel of the national security case. US policy must live up to American values because, for our enemies, "hypocrisy" is a persuasive recruitment tool. And without confidence and trust, skilled interrogators stand little chance of acquiring the reliable intelligence we need to keep United States safe.
It is incredibly important that we continue to drive home the point that the GOP's approach to national security is "reckless" and "out of touch." Progressives must stay on the offensive to recapture the issue of national security and make it our own.
Learn how to beat Dick Cheney and learn more about how progressives can lead on national security by signing up for our backgrounders and newsletters at Truman National Security Project .