I swear, sometimes the Republicans are just too clever for their own good. Karl Rove, the brain behind the Bush White House, has built an enviable record as a successful strategist largely on his talent for capturing in just a few words the conventional wisdom about a person or situation.
He then systematically goes about pounding that catch phrase deep into the American consciousness through simple repetition. Daily, the Fox news team, the official press spokespeople for the administration and the nation's accumulated right-wing talk show pundits will all parrot over and over again the Rove-issued sound bite of the moment.
Thus, we will never be able to look at John Kerry without the phrase “flip-flop” edging into our minds ... even if it makes us vehemently angry to hear a genuine war hero so maligned.
And neither Bush nor any of his New American Empire (or is it Century?) circle of advisors need ever resort to anything more substantive when discussing Iraq than to flash the date “9/11” at us repeatedly. Mouths open, eyes glaze, heads nod. Pavlov's dogs didn't respond so well.
It's an approach devastating in its simplicity and completely attuned to the willingness of the American public to swallow anything that doesn't demand thought or a re-examination of its deepest prejudices. In other words, it's worked just swell for the first five years of the Bush reign.
So when America's growing dissatisfaction with the pursuit of the Iraq occupation recently (and finally) rumbled up to the level of consciousness in Congress, it was practically automatic that Rove's crew of saboteurs would strike back with a prepackaged (and probably focus group-tested) verbal retort.
“We can't just cut and run,” they exclaimed.
“Why, will you listen to these wimpy Democrats: They just want to cut and run.”
“The real Americans in this administration will never cut and run. That's exactly what the terrorists would want us to do.”
It was a phrase used by administration representatives at least 50 times the first day after the respected (genuine) Vietnam war hero and longtime Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania stood up to condemn the way Bush has chosen to fight the war and to suggest that it was past due time to bring the troops home.
Cut and run is a phrase calculated to stir the ire of every Rambo-loving, patriotic American. It elicits images of Blackhawk Down and Somalia. It is the charge long leveled at Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Democratic presidents who had the smarts to cut our losses and end futile, pointless military adventures in foreign lands.
It is interesting that cut and run is never used to describe Republican icon Ronald Reagan, who did precisely the same thing when it became clear that U.S. troops in Lebanon were accomplishing nothing more than adding to our casualty lists. He brought them home right away. That was strategic redeployment, not cutting and running; you can tell the difference because he was a Republican. Republicans don't cut and run; they strategically redeploy.
So even Murtha, whose craggy visage would seem to be immune to attacks from the likes of Rove, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, whose collective military experience in total doesn't amount to one 50th of his own, got branded with the cut and run accusation.
They should have thought it through a little better.
Murtha's right. We have to get out. We are accomplishing nothing with this protracted occupation. It is a terrible waste of a perfectly good military force to have them sitting there like goats on a rope tied to a stake trying to lure “terrorists” out into the open so the body count will look more impressive. I suggest that 2,150 dead Americans is already way too many.
The Iraqis want us out. They tell public opinion pollsters that the sooner we get out, the better. The newly elected government we ostensibly are there to protect wants us out. The American public's support for staying has dipped below 50 percent. Now even Congress seems ready to vote to bring the troops home.
Colin Powell recently said that while we may need to keep a military force in Iraq for the foreseeable future, we should begin to significantly reduce the number of Americans over there during 2006. Powell is, of course, suggesting strategic redeployment, not cutting and running.
But even when he begins to talk about getting the hell out, it seems likely that the American people are being softened up for what Congressman Murtha last month said should be done.
On Sunday night, President Bush mind-numbingly asserted there were only two options for us in Iraq: victory or defeat. Since he's never defined victory, he seemed to be warning against cutting and running.
Rove may label it cutting and running. Powell prefers redeployment. You and I can keep lighting votives until our men and women are home safely. It all amounts to the same thing: This bloody waste of a war may at last be getting close to ending.
I just wish the Bushmen weren't making it so hard to accomplish the task. Their punditry is coming back to bite us all in the butt. Loaded language like cut and run, if used to defame critics, only serves to delay the necessary step of leaving.
It isn't a war. It's an occupation. And you don't win occupations; you just use them to make more enemies.