Richard Cohen's "History" Lesson
Man, Richard Cohen really is clueless. He is predicting that Democrats will lose the 2008 Presidential election because they want to end the Iraq Debacle. I kid you not.
Antiwar Democrats in key primary and caucus states, particularly New Hampshire and Iowa, will not vote for a lukewarm antiwar candidate. This explains why Clinton recently reversed herself and voted to end funding for the war. The one Democratic presidential candidate from the Senate who did not was Joseph Biden. He said he opposed the war but saw no choice but to fund the troops. Precisely right, Joe. But more than right, prescient as well. As if to suggest what an issue this will become, Rudolph Giuliani called Clinton and Obama's vote a "significant flip-flop." Since then the Republicans have mostly trained their fire on each other. You can bet, though, that if either candidate gets the nomination, this vote will be hung around Clinton or Obama's neck, and the hoariest of cliches will be trotted out: weak on defense. It will have added resonance for Clinton because she is a woman.
Cohen thinks the GOP will win in 2008 like Nixon won in 1972, by attacking Dems for opposing a war. Cohen is a fool. More.
First consider what Cohen himself writes about polling on Nixon's handling of Vietnam in 1972:
In the second place, back then the Vietnam War was not as unpopular as you might think -- or, for that matter, as the Iraq war is now. In 1972, almost 60 percent of Americans approved of the way Nixon was handling the war.
Bush has a 25% approval rating on Iraq. Cohen is not very adept at history.
Consider the fact that Nixon had withdrawn virtually all US combat troops from Vietnam by 1972:
Between 1969 and 1972, [the Nixon Administration] withdrew 515,000 American troops, ended American ground combat in 1971 and reduced American casualties by nearly 90%.
Consider the fact that John Kerry, contrary to Cohen's assertion, was NOT hurt by his anti-Iraq Debacle stance in the 2004 election. Indeed, when he hit the issue hard is when he made up the most ground. Kerry's problem, as Frank Luntz pointed out, was not opposing the Iraq Debacle, it was the image of spinelessness and flip-flopping:
LUNTZ: Oh, flip-flop. This is -- just ask John Kerry what it is. The joke was: He was for and against Leave No Child Behind, for and against tax cuts, for and against the war in Iraq. If he'd been elected president, he would've been the first individual ever to be able to deliver the State of the Union address and the rebuttal the same night. We want people who will look you straight in the eye -- and I watch politicians -- how much -- when you're interviewing them -- how much they look down, whether they have notes in front of them. You want them to look you straight in the eye and absolutely say what you mean and mean what you say.
And Kerry barely lost. Richard Cohen's grasp of history and politics is fleeting at best. But what would really be remarkable would be if any Democrats actually listen to him. Not surprising, but remarkable.
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