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(A Winning) 2008 Democratic Presidential Strategy - Choice with Conviction

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Message Matt Vrabel
A return to the White House in 2009 has been served up to the Democrats on a Silver Platter. But the Democrats have one big problem. They neither perceive the opportunity nor do they recognize how to take advantage of it. Instead, they remain hostage to the Cheney/Rove bullying game, swallowing the guilty bait on Iraq and thereby empowering an Administration strategy designed to mask its own failures.

Nothing more stands between the Democrats and victory than the realization that they need to play their own strategy - deliver a sustained, acceptable alternative message (choice) on Iraq, but not necessarily results. The latter burden remains squarely with the Republicans. This gives the Democrats an opportunity to provide an intelligent choice to many pivotal swing voters who, like me, are what I'll coin as "DMR's" (disenchanted moderate Republicans).

Under the likely assumption that the situation in Iraq will degrade further before it improves, our sizeable in-country presence, compounded by the 4-5,000 projected deaths of American service personnel will be the single most important issue of the 2008 campaign. The Republicans themselves, via General Casey, recently projected that there will still be at least 100,000 troops in Iraq going into Primary season. That projection is hugely optimistic, just noting recent trends/developments. It too neither acknowledges the insurgency as chronic, not curable, nor does it factor in a potential ugly civil war.

If Iraq is destined to be the centerpiece election issue in two years, what constitutes a creative, sound, winning and sustainable message today?

The answer is to offer something that the Republicans have failed to put forward, a sensible exit plan framework that incorporates the three criteria critical to acceptance by the American mainstream: Patriotism, Prudence and Honor. Putting this plan forward with some new-found intestinal fortitude in the face of Republican diversionary criticism wouldn't be a bad idea either.

The Iraq invasion, while triggered by expectations of finding stores of WMD's, was pitched by the Republicans and accepted by the American public as an intervention in the name of Liberation, and not as what it has become, a prolonged and unpopular Occupation. It was even characterized as such in the mission's name Iraqi Freedom.

The presentation of an exit plan consistent with that already accepted theme of liberation would be equally well received by American voters. One worthy approach is a "controlled withdrawal", the antithesis of "cut and run". Call it the "Three for One and Done" Plan.

Here's how it would work. We currently have 130,000 troops in Iraq (the U.S. military estimates that three-times that many will actually be required to secure the country).This Plan would require investing the necessary resources (in the end, a mere fraction of the $100 billion we now allocate to Iraq every year), to train a 400,000 person Iraqi security force over 36 months. For every three Iraqis trained and deployed, we bring home one U.S. service member. When the final US troop hits American soil in three years, the plan and mission is "Done". In addition to meeting the criteria for American public acceptance, the Plan also removes the ugly moniker of occupier from the lexicon of the growing number of critics who are disparaging us.

As respects Occupation, a point to be made. If for whatever strategic reasons that was the purposeful intent of the Administration's Iraq invasion, which there exists no apparent data to suggest otherwise, then there fundamentally is no incentive for this Administration to help the Iraqis build a quality 400,000 self security force to allow us to leave, and why progress reports on reaching that goal are always so discouraging. We don't seem to want to make it a reality and it never will until we do. If our purpose is to stay, then we defeat that intent if the Plan ever gets Done. Therefore the Republicans will never embrace "3 for 1 and Done", leaving it ripe for the Democrats to solely own this prudent and honorable position.

The Democrats would champion this framework and not abandon the theme regardless how hot the proverbial kitchen gets. If they remain strong on principle, they can carry this approach right into the 2008 Election Cycle. However, a Democrat assumption that they will be able to come out of the woodwork in 2008 and say we told you so after they effectively did a "duck and hide" two years earlier will not lead to success. In fact, remaining steadfastly on theme will obviate the need to say we told you so in two years and will lead to the Party's garnering the swing votes of many moderate Republicans, like myself.

A Democratic victory in 2008 should be akin to a golf gimme. Unlike the more difficult Republican predicament, victory for Democrats is based neither on executing against a demanding plan nor on delivering results, but rather on championing a strategy of choice while keeping the risk of implosion on the Republicans as they struggle to succeed with their updated version of Vietnam.

Vietnam II is not the victory we want. "Three for One and Done" is. Embracing this strategy of sound choice with conviction over the next two years will win the vote of this DMR, put a Democrat in the White House on Jan. 21, 2009, and most importantly, bring our troops home with pride and honor.

It's time to turn "Mission Accomplished" into "Mission Done".
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