Going All Cheney on Iraq

At the Plum Line today, Greg Sargent uses Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst to make an important point about potential Republican overreach on the situation in Iraq:

In an interview with ABC News, Joni Ernst, the GOP Senate candidate in Iowa, suggested the U.S. should not have pulled troops out of Iraq when it did, blaming that supposed failure for the current escalation of violence….

[T]his puts a GOP candidate in a top-tier Senate race squarely in the anti-withdrawal camp. Dem Rep. Bruce Braley’s aides have already telegraphed that they will characterize Ernst’s position as akin to that of Dick Cheney. They are also highlighting Ernst’s recent suggestion that “I do have reason to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” to build the case.

Anyone who makes the “shoulda never withdrawn” argument must believe it, because it’s really dumb politically. The obvious rhetorical diet for Republicans on Iraq is a combo platter of generalized bitching (“Obama has emboldened the terrorists by his weakness and irresolution” blah blah) and snail-eyed nitpicking (second-guessing daily decisions). Yes, there are a significant number (although a minority even there) of Republican voters who think we should still be fighting the Iraq War Bush began, just as there are almost certainly a decent number of Republicans of a certain age who think we unnecessarily “surrendered” in Vietnam. But it doesn’t play well in a general election.

Maybe Iowans will cut Ernst some extra slack on this issue since she’s an Iraq vet (and a current National Guardsman). But more and more she’s looking like someone with a bad habit of talking before she thinks.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.