Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey of Newsweek posted an excellent article explaining how Bush’s 9/11 address to the nation last night in prime time fits into his political strategy. Money quote:
The most important hallmark is a passive-aggressive strategy—to land a punch without looking like you’re in a fight. So Bush took the high road of patriotism, as he called for Democrats to stop opposing his policies in Iraq and elsewhere. “Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country,” Bush said, “and we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us.”
Nothing in his speech, and nothing outside it, suggests that President Bush is ready to meet his critics half-way in setting aside their differences. In the president’s view, the people playing politics—and dividing the nation—are those who oppose his approach. That may not be explicitly partisan politics, but it is political debate dressed up in patriotic clothes.
Earlier in the speech, he was more explicit about the most important of those differences: about how to end the military operations in Iraq.
Bush’s rhetorical strategy is twofold: first, issue a statement of fact about your own position; second, caricature your opponents to look foolish. First the statement of fact: “We’re training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation. We’re helping Iraq’s unity government grow in strength and serve its people. We will not leave until this work is done,” he explained.
Second, the caricature: “Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone,” he said. “They will not leave us alone. They will follow us.”
Are there any senior Democrats who have said that troops should leave Iraq in the hope that “terrorists would leave us alone?” The Democratic argument is that troops should leave Iraq either to encourage Iraqis to take control, or simply to avoid greater casualties in what looks like a low-grade civil war.
They nailed it. When you break it down, it becomes apparant how offensive this strategy can be.
Now, instead of complaining about the tactics, the Democrats need to fight back. They need to challenge his statements and hit back hard.