DEMOCRATIC NAVEL GAZING WATCH….Earlier today, Arianna Huffington got a bunch of people riled up by linking to a Roll Call article that said Democrats are planning ? yet again! ? to pretend that national security isn’t a major issue and will instead try to make the economy the central subject of this year’s campaign. “Oh. My. God.” said Arianna. “Oh, Christ,” said Matt Yglesias.

“Not so fast,” said Ezra Klein. The Roll Call article was brief and thinly sourced, and the Democratic aides he talked to told him that although certain local campaigns may be focusing on the economy, “the national messaging from the Democratic leadership has been almost all national-security focused.”

So which is it? Obviously different Dems have different approaches, but one very prominent Democrat had a very prominent platform in print today, and it suggests Arianna may have been right after all. I hate to do this to you, but I’m going to turn the mike over to conservative Tom Bevan to describe Howard Dean’s op-ed in Friday’s Wall Street Journal:

He begins with this: “We need a Democratic Congress to fight the war on terror ? and to end the war on America’s families.” But if you were looking for an explanation in the 1,056 words that followed as to why we need a Democratic Congress to fight the war on terror, you came away disappointed ? because Dean never really offered one.

Instead, he launched into a litany of detailed complaints against the Bush economy (falling incomes, stagnant wages, rising heathcare costs, and falling retirement coverage) led off by a muted but obvious piece of populist class warfare right out of Bob Shrum’s faded playbook: “An economy that favors the top 1% at the expense of everyone else might be good for President Bush’s politics, but a shrinking middle class is bad for capitalism, democracy and America.”

Snark aside, this is sadly accurate. Dean’s piece is here, and it contains only one short, fuzzy paragraph about national security at the very end. Essentially, he just ignored the whole issue. That’s very, very dumb.

And while we’re at it, I have one other message for Dean: Dude. You were writing in the fucking Wall Street Journal. Do you really think that’s the place for a thousand words of pitchfork-waving, tax-cut-hating, populist agit-prop? Even if you couldn’t bring yourself to write about national security, don’t you think you could have picked a slightly better approach to win the hearts and minds of the conservative business titans who read the Journal?

Know your audience. This is Persuasion 101. Can’t anybody play this game anymore?

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