FIRST THINGS FIRST....

FIRST THINGS FIRST. Greg asks 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. One question is "How should I handle the Iran issue?" The other is "How should I handle the Iran issue given that supporting a war with Iran is a non-starter?" If you think of the Social Security campaign as the model of effective opposition, the crucial first step there was when Democrats decided that privatizing Social Security was a bad idea and that they were committed to opposing it. Once you reach the conclusion that backing the needless deaths of tens of thousands of people isn't going to be on the table as a tactical option for 2006, you can start working on the question of how to be against the needless deaths of tens of thousands of people without appearing "too weak."

I certainly think John Aravosis's "wrong man" line should be in the mix, but I wouldn't want to see people rely too heavily on it. It kinda sorta seems to imply that launching a war with Iran is, in fact, a good idea and that the only problem with the idea is that George W. Bush is a bad president. Doubts about Bush's leadership abilities and honesty definitely need to be on the table here, but you don't want to concede too much. After all, faced with a genuinely necessary war, you've got to back the war no matter how inept the current president is. But there's nothing necessary, or even remotely useful or appealing, about the war with Iran idea and that needs to be said frequently and effectively. Ironically, Condoleezza Rice is responsible for perhaps the pithiest formulation of the right way to think about countries like Iran: "These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. Rather, the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence -- if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration."

--Matthew Yglesias

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