PLAYING POLITICS ISN'T A POLICY. I'm going to dissent, with Ezra, from the emerging TAPPED line on Iran here and say that any Democrat who comes out and argues that we can't deal with Iran until Bush is out of office will do nothing more than reaffirm to the nth degree the perception that Democrats cannot handle national security matters. Iran is not just an American problem and is not going to go away as an issue if Democrats choose to punt on it. The U.S. did not precipitate this conflict.
THE RETURN OF POTTERY BARN. I'll second Matt's comments below; so much as George Bush's staggering incompetence should have a prime part in the Democratic production of "No Sequel: Why We Shouldn't Fight Iran," to build the whole argument around Bush himself would be a profoundly unstable edifice for the anti-war camp. Indeed, it would take little more than Bush replacing Don Rumsfeld with some media-recognized vessel of establishment gravitas and hardheaded competence to short-circuit the argument. Imagine if noted warmonger John McCain were ushered into the cabinet, or if some retired general were brought in to replace Dick Cheney.
AS LONG AS YOU LIKE.David Ignatius, aiming to make me love Don Rumsfeld by arguing that he should resign in order to increase public support for the indefinite continuation of the Iraq War, observes that "As bad as things are in Baghdad, America won't be defeated there militarily. But it may be forced into a hasty and chaotic retreat by mounting domestic opposition to its policy." This is one of the truthiest of all elements of the elite conventional wisdom on Iraq. Yes, it's true, insurgents aren't going to inflict some kind of decisive battlefield loss on the US Army.
FIRST THINGS FIRST.Gregasks a good question below about the politics of Iran, and I don't have a super-good answer. I would say that the beginning of political wisdom on this topic, however, is a little dose of the old moral clarity. There are two different questions Democratic officeholders can be asking themselves, their staffers, and their consultants.
MORE ON DEMS AND IRAN. I see that in last night's post on Iran I inadvertently wrote that Dems should be figuring out how to respond after strikes come. Since the post was meant to make the opposite point -- that Dems should be thinking through how politically to approach Iran now -- a quick clarification is in order. A lot will of course happen between now and any move on Iran.
The elections in Italy prompted another round of knowing comments about how Europeans must get over their silly attachment to employment security (e.g. "Europe Stalls on Road to Economic Change"). None of the comments I saw even considered the possibility that the contractionary policies of the European Central Bank (ECB) play any role in Europe's economic weakness.
HOW SHOULD DEMS HANDLE IRAN? As depressing as this is, it's never too early for liberals and Dem thinkers to start figuring out how to prevent Dems from dividing if Bush orders, say, limited strikes on Iran. Al Gore and Howard Dean might oppose them, as perhaps will the new and improved John Edwards. But what about other presidential contenders -- Mark Warner, Evan Bayh and Hillary Clinton? (Then there's always Joe Lieberman, who will probably volunteer to sit astride the first falling bomb, Dr. Strangelove style.)
OFF INTO THE SUNSET. Budget negotiations within the House GOP conference stalled last week over disputes between moderates, who wanted some boosts in spending, and the Republican Study Committee (RSC) folks, who were pushing for some of their usual litany of draconian caps and budget process changes.
DRAWING KNIVES?The Washington Postsurveys veteran congressional handicappers and concludes that the Democrats' chances of taking back the House in November remain very slim. I'll let the Midterm Madness folks judge whether the piece is trustworthy or persuasive on the merits; needless to say, it remains the case that structural barriers still do render a takeover a long-shot proposition, even with Democrats enjoying such a politically favorable climate nationwide.