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Tuesday, May 20, 2003


What Chris Matthews and the DLC Misunderstand

posted by Matt Singer at Tuesday, May 20, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
A lot of people are thinking that Kerry is the only candidate who can trump Bush on issues of national security, both in terms of actual and perceived ability to do so.

In my mind, this is truly flawed. I truly still do not understand Kerry's stance on Iraq. From what I can tell, invasion in October was OK, but invasion in March (when America's image was on the line) wasn't. That's a bad actual national security policy.

Now, as for Dean being unelectable because of perceived weakness on national security, the argument that Matthews, the DLC, Wolfman Blitzer, and others keep making is that people in 2004 will think Dean made the wrong call on Iraq, a fundamental national security issue. They think this will be people's opinion since polls showed people supported the war in Iraq.

But they're missing some fundamental truths behind those polls. First, poll numbers for wars always go up, as it is largely a way of showing support for troops. Second, a stance on the first Iraq war never really became a large 1992 issue. Third, there is no evidence that Americans equated the War on Iraq and national security and good evidence exists to the contrary. Fourth, polls only measure beliefs, not strength of beliefs, or importance of them.

The only two points that really need to be explicated, I think are numbers three and four. Early polls on the war showed a very divided nation on the question of war with Iraq. As the war continued and people learned of the atrocities of Saddam Hussein, support went up, as always does when the government exploits human rights abuses to justify a decision to go to war (as will always be done, since virtually all countries that threaten us have horrible human rights abuses, but rarely are said abuses our justification for war). Remember, this is a war that the President had to tour the country defending, despite the fact that there were only two Senators really speaking out against it - Byrd and Wellstone. So, now, post-war very little evidence exists that Saddam was a security threat. So, most Americans may still believe that the war was a good idea, but they probably do not connect it to national security. This may be difficult for Washington pundits to understand. Ya know, the world isn't always black and white. Psychology matters in politics.

As for point number four, I think many people in Washington might be amazed at how little the War in Iraq will matter to most voters, precisely because they do not associate it with defense. Ezra is correct that national security will matter and you won't catch me saying otherwise. But the war won't. Why? Well, as anyone who has read me for a while knows, I think the war was not necessary, but not necessarily a bad idea. By the end, I was in favor, as we had gotten ourselves into a position where we couldn't back out. But I don't think Dean's stance is ridiculous. I know other who were also pro-war who support Dean. And I know other people who nominally support the war, but say to me they never really understood why we went in. That's the prevailing mood. "We did it. We kicked ass. And we had a good result. But I never really cared."

Now, 25% of the country cared. 10% were liberals who fought it tooth and nail. 15% were conservatives who would have been happy to see Baghdad (and Paris) nuked. But I don't think most Americans will see it as a defining issue.

Now, I could be wrong. I've been wrong before. But so has Chris Matthews. So has the DLC.

Regardless, I think it's clear that this nation will elect, twice, a man who is disliked by Chris Matthews, who amazes other members of the media, and is capable at building center-left coalitions. I think it's clear that this nation will elect a man who has a falling out with the same DLC that used to support him and even advise him.


Because we elected Clinton twice. And we're gonna elect Dean.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.