Thursday, September 22, 2005

The argument Edwards should make

posted by Rob at 7:15 AM

I mentioned earlier this week that John Edward's eight-year presidential campaign has new life. Thomas Oliphant and TPMCafe are all a'giggle over the possibility of a Southern son revival. Best of the Web, of course, has a slightly different take.

I also think this is Edward's chance to make a credible case for himself in 2008, though I think he'll blow it. As Oliphant points out, Edwards is pushing the point that Katrina "exposed America's dirty secret" of poverty. If that is all he argues, he's toast for two reasons:

One, that line about a secret is bull feces. Everyone knows there are poor people in the country. We just argue over how best to help them improve their economic standing.

No. 2, it's the wrong argument. The target for Democrats and liberals should be simple - Bush and the Republicans have not done what they promised after 9/11.

After four planes hit three buildings and U.S. soil, Bush and the Republicans went on the offensive. The Department of Homeland Security was created. Military strength became the party's theme. We waged a War on Terror. We got color codes and proclamations that, while an attack is likely, thanks to Bush's policies none had yet to occur.

Bush's legacy post-9/11 looked to be gaining shape - he kept America safe. Now it can be argued we've only been lucky. Hurricane Katrina's impact and the mass confusion at all levels of government give hefty weight to the argument that we are no better prepared today for a terrorist strike than we were on 9/10.

I keep going back to this Mark Steyn column:
Imagine if al-Qaida were less boneheaded and had troubled themselves to learn a bit more about the Great Satan's weak spots. Imagine if they'd decided to blow up a couple of levees and flood a great American city. Would local and state government have responded any more effectively than they did last week? After all, Katrina, unlike Osama, let 'em know she was heading their way.
As has been pointed out by numerous people, it has been so secret that New Orleans would one day be hit by a massive storm that would flood the city. You would think that somewhere in Washington there was a plan on how to best save Americans on that fateful day. You would think there would have been clear lines of communication and a agreed-upon plan between the DofHS, FEMA, Louisiana and New Orleans.

We have since learned that is not so. So now the question must be asked. Is our country's preparedness for a terrorist attack filled with "unknown unknowns"? Disaster plans we don't know we don't know.

I was born and raised in Fayetteville, N.C. The city is home to Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base. Both are prime military targets. If al-Qaida wanted to launch a domestic attack with a dirty bomb or high-grade explosive, the Fayetteville area would be a prime target. Civilians in Fayetteville and the surrounding area would also be hit.

Is the federal government prepared for such an attack? Unlike Katrina - and now Rita - it's doubtful we'd have three days to prepare. Is there a well coordinated plan between the federal, state, local and military chains of commands?

And wouldn't you think that, post-9/11 and post-DofHS, such a plan should exist? After Katrina, do you think one does?

For some odd reason, few people - and no Dems - are making this argument. The leftist Dissident Voice has to look to Republicans to make the argument:
Among leading Republicans who called the response by FEMA and federal agencies a failure were Sens. David Vittin (R-La.) and Sen. Susan Bollins (R-Maine). Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), a conservative, called FEMA’s response “an embarrassment”. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), one of Bush’s closest allies, told the Associated Press he believed “was overwhelmed, undermanned and not capable of doing its job.” By the time Katrina hit, the federal government in the four years after 9/11 had spent billions of dollars and had funded or conducted thousands of training sessions to combat terrorism. “If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?” demanded Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House.
I don't like John Edwards, but I admit he has struck a chord with some Americans. Not enough to actually win primaries or national elections, but the media love him so he has a mighty big bat in his hands.

IMHO, if Edwards or the Democratic party was smart, they'd forget the tired taxcutsfortherichHalliburtonBoltonismeanCheneyisevilRoveissatanBushisstupidcanttalk crap they've been futilely shoveling since 1999 and make a sound policy argument based on national security.

Edwards can stand in front of a respectful crowd, one arm around a token black from New Orleans, the other holding his wife's hand. There can be a huge blowup print of the Superdome from September 1 behind him. James Lee Witt can be off to the side, looking solemn. Edwards can look into the camera and say, "The Republicans promised they'd prepare this country for a terrorist attack. They obviously weren't prepared for something as predictable as nature.

"Mr. President, why should we trust your party again?"

That should be his mantra. Build the two Americas speech around that theme. He can say. "One America believes Republicans are keeping us safe and at the ready, the other America now knows they are not. Join me as we work to do the job Republicans either can't or won't. I will make America stronger not only economically, but domestically as well."

Yeah, tinker with the verbage some. And change the scenery a bit. But is there any doubt that Edwards would have a more credible foundation for a run in 2008.

Which begs the question - why is no one on the left in Washington making that argument now?

UPDATE: Mystery Pollster stumbles across the same open door as I (emphasis his):
...if Katrina did not alter Americans overall rating of Bush, they certainly did collapse perceptions of Bush on one key dimension: Being a "strong and decisive leader." The percentage of Americans who describe Bush as a strong leader fell steadly from 60% just before Katrina, to 51% on the current survey (a result also seen in recent CBS polls). To paraphrase pollster Peter Hart's conclusion in looking at his own poll NBC and the Wall Street Journal, Katrina effectively "burst" perceptions of Bush as a strong leader. That may not collapse his overall job rating, but it is a bad sign for the President.
(hat tip: Kaus)


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