It’s certainly true, as Kevin Drum says, that the GOP has a nasty taste for playing politics with national security. Nevertheless, I don’t think whining about it is the best strategy. I think this talk of how the GOP wants a focus on security in November is all about psyching the Democrats out. After all, national security should be a great opposition issue. The war in Iraq is a shambles, the Bush administration’s legal theories are in tatters, almost no terrorism experts think we’re in good shape, etc.
The GOP hope is that if they can say “we’re hoping to debate security” and the opposition reacts with defensiveness and whining then they can recreate the illusion that they’re in command of these issues.
Realistically, the whole thing’s a fraud. Going back months the GOP strategy has been a focus on immigration and efforts to “localize” the election in order to save House Republicans from the backlash against Bush and against Iraq. Democrats should welcome a national debate on the Republican wreckage of national security policy and just say, confidently, that they’re sure they can win such a debate and then go out and win it. Joining the debate with pep, vim, and confidence is a big part of making sure you win it. Do Republicans really think people are going to hear about this tale of dead American soldiers and blindfolded Iraqi corpses and rush into the tender arms of the GOP? Or maybe it’s the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan they’re so eager to engage with?