GOP advice on escalation debate: Change the subject

Republican representatives say Democrats win if they're forced to defend what's happening in Iraq.

By Tim Grieve
Published February 14, 2007 1:33PM (EST)

Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer's office has obtained a letter in which Republican Reps. John Shadegg and Peter Hoekstra advise their GOP colleagues on how best to debate the president's escalation of the war in Iraq. The one-word version: Don't.

Shadegg and Hoekstra tell their colleagues that "Democrats want us to focus on defending the surge, making the case that it will work and explaining why the president's new Iraq policy is different from prior efforts and therefore justified." Sounds like a reasonable proposition to us -- if you support the idea of sending an additional 21,500 troops into war, you probably ought to be able to explain why you think the idea will work.

But Shadegg and Hoekstra say it's all trick. "This debate should not be about the surge or its details," they say. "This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation on Iraq, we lose."

So what should the debate be about? Shadegg and Hoekstra advise Republicans to spend their time on the House floor talking about "the threat posed to Americans, the world and all 'unbelievers' by radical Islamists" and "educating the American people about the views of radical Islamists and the consequences of not defeating radical Islam in Iraq."

What Shadegg and Hoekstra probably didn't have in mind? The time-traveling, metaphor-mixing escalation defense offered on the House floor Tuesday by Missouri Republican Todd Akin: "To say that we're gonna support our troops but we're not gonna send them any reinforcements is on the face of it contradictory," Akin said. "Could you picture Davy Crockett at the Alamo looking at his Blackberry getting a message from Congress? 'Davy Crockett, we support you. The only thing is, we are not going to send any troops.' I'm sure that would really be impressive to Davy Crockett."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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