My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Why Is This So Hard?

I don't normally watch the Today Show--with very good reason, I think. But, for some reason, I turned over this morning to the show while getting ready for work, and I caught an interview between Meredith Vieira and Tom DeLay.

Now, let's be clear: Tom DeLay is one of the most effective Republican LEGISLATORS in recent history--there's a reason he was called "The Hammer" and that he became the prime target for the Democratic Search-and-Destroy Team. But this interview left me wondering what happened to all the good Conservative debaters. A sample:

Note: this transcript is mine, from the interview which can be seen at the show's website

[video clip of DeLay on Meet the Press, in which he points out that announcing a timetable for withdrawal gives aid and comfort to the enemy]
vieira: In a poll taken last week, sir, 59% of Americans say they agree that troops should be removed from Iraq by Fall of 2008. So, does that mean that more than half of Americans are unpatriotic? that they're abetting the enemy?
delay: No, No, that...it's much different. When you give a date certain, and you telegraph to the enemy what your plans are, and what your strategies are, the enemy can design his own strategy in response.
vieira: How is that different than the American people--59%--who are saying that they want American troops out by the Fall of 2008?
delay: For what reason? and when?
vieira: Because they think that it's not working.
delay: No.. .it's . . a lot of it has to do with the American people are frustrated, as I am, as the President is, that it's not going as well as you'd like to have it, and you'd like to be out. But it's not a matter of setting a date, and, uh . . .when you set a date, you're aiding and abetting your enemy.
vieira: Well, I think they are saying, sir, not to beat a dead horse, I think they are saying that they want American troops out by the Fall of 2008.
delay: well . . . I didn't know that you spoke for the American people.
vieira: No, I'm not. I'm speaking for the poll, actually. And the poll shows 59% say that. I'm just wondering . . .I want to make sure I understand you when you say that those people are not unpatriotic, that you're not taking that position.
delay: People can take a position at all. What I'm saying is that, when you set a date, and . . .uh, . . it . . .it gives the enemy, uh . . . comfort to know what you're gonna do so they can, uh, plan their attacks,uh, on their own.

There. That's enough.

Okay, let's make the excuses first. DeLay was there to pimp his book, so he probably had no reason to think about this line of questioning. He was probably caught a little off guard by the clip from MTP, and, perhaps, it is reasonable to think this was a bit of a blindside.

That said, let's see a show of hands for everybody who would have thought ahead of time that DeLay was going to get a straight shot on the Today Show.

Yeah. Me neither.

So, dammit, Republicans, get an answer ready to go for this line of questioning. If you are going to go out in public and use the words "aid and abet", you'd better be ready to back it up. How hard would it have been to say something like this:

"Well, Meredith, those 59% aren't the policy-making body of the United States. It's one thing for the public to say they WANT a thing to happen, it's another thing entirely for the Congress to say a thing MUST happen. I want the troops out; the President wants the troops out--EVERYBODY wants our boys and girls to come home. But it has to be done responsibly, in a way that respects the work and the sacrifices our troops have made.

"Let me put it this way. If you polled New York Giants fans, and asked them if they wanted the team to throw the ball down the field more late in the game, I'll bet you could get 59% of the Giants fans to agree with that. And the Dallas Cowbos wouldn't care a whit about that information. But, if on the other hand, Coach Coughlin and the coaching staff came out and announced that they were GOING to throw the ball downfield more, starting at the 10 minute mark of the 4th quarter, then that's a whole different thing. And I think the Dallas Cowboys would find that information most useful.

"It's the difference between the other side knowing your players and your tendencies, or the other side actually having your playbook."

Now, granted, I had all day to flesh these thoughts out, and Tom DeLay didn't; but I haven't made a career out of taking and defending political positions in public. And, to be perfectly honest, most of this answer came to me almost immediately.

Frankly, it's not that hard.

Why, I ask, do Republicans get SO bumfuzzled every time they have to defend themselves. I would rather a politician come out and be strong and forceful, even if they make a few rhetorical mistakes.

Reagan was known to make a few mistakes. But he didn't lose too many rhetorical battles, and he always spoke in terms that most of the public understood.

Today's GOP could take a lesson or two.

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