I was listening to a political talk show recently and the conversation went something like this:
- Pundit A: It’s outrageous that Hillary is using these low-ball tactics like the “who do YOU want to answer the 3AM phone call” ad. It just plays into Republican strength on national defense. She even said that either she or McCain would be a better commander in chief than Obama”.
- Pundit B: Yes, its terrible, but it might be irrelevant since this election could easily turn on the issue of the economy. The GOP’s only hope is to have everyone focus on security issues.
I know what they are saying. Republicans have the reputation for “strength” and “national defense”. But why? In one of the countless “if a Democrat had done that” thought experiments imagine the 9/11 attacks had happened with Al Gore as president. Clearly the GOP would be yelping and yowling about Democratic weakness on defense and security, but here’s the difference: large sections of the public would believe them. We’d all be convinced that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened with Republican in charge.
But given that the GOP was in charge—not to mention went on to a myriad of other defense and security fiascoes—why do Democrats still consider the GOP untouchable on defense issues.? “This election has to be about the economy”, they say. Frickin’ A.
I don’t know that I have an answer, but it seems to me the Dems need to confront this issue head on. My prediction is that if party A grants the national security issue to party B, Party A will only win 2 out of 7 presidential elections.
As it turns out, that’s exactly the number of times Republicans have won since 1980. Even then, the Dems only won in 1992 because Ross Perot sucked votes away from Bush I—Clinton won, but only got 43% of the vote. We could have had 28 straight years of Republican presidents—-and Supreme completely packed with Alito’s and Scalia’s.
After Bush’s 9/11 and Iraq fiascoes there should have been no way he could have won in 2004. In 2008, after more of the same, polls show McCain and whoever running very close. It shouldn’t be close. In my opinion it’s largely a perception, but whatever the reason, Dems have a problem with defense and security issues.