HOW SHOULD DEMS...

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.)

Seriously, this is a real question: What are the prospects (assuming they exist at all) for anything approaching Democratic unity on Iran? And how might it be achieved? On Social Security, Dems stayed in line -- partly because defeat would have been catastrophic, and partly because they were persuaded that they could win. And it worked. Can Dems be persuaded that a debate over Iran can be won, too? Matt smartly suggests a broad, longer-term approach to winning this and other future arguments -- attack the "network of ideas" that brought us Iraq and threaten to bring us war with Iran. In a shorter-term, more tactical sense, it's never too early to come up with a core message on Iran that Dems might see as a winner -- and hence might be willing to unify around.

So: Is there such a message? My first nomination would be one of John Avarosis's suggestions: "George Bush is the wrong man to be launching yet another war." His whole list is worth a read, but that one seems particularly potent. It dovetails with the incompetence argument, reminds voters of the Iraq fiasco and Bush's central role in creating it and promising easy victory, and raises the specter of Bush as reflexive warmonger, which could make voters less willing to listen to the White House's pro-war rationale. And recent polls -- including this eye-opening one -- suggest the electorate may be ready to question the wisdom of GOP militarism and the arguments undergirding it. Yes, yes, I know, Dems can't possibly win an argument about national security, right? But things change -- sometimes even for the better. Maybe GOP hegemony on these issues is coming to an end. And not a moment too soon.

--Greg Sargent

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