Sunday, February 25, 2007

Meme alert

Readers (OK, the one reader, thanks Bro) of this blog may have noticed that I've sensed a strong new meme developing on the left side of the aisle. It goes something like this: "We really, really support the troops. We said it in our resolution. You (the administration) obviously hate them as you treat them like crap. We just want our beloved soldiers to come home."

This morning, McClatchy Newspapers' Margaret Talev says basically the same:

Support the troops.

Few phrases in American politics sound so innocuous but sting so much.

Republican backers of the Iraq war have revived a tactic from the Vietnam era, trying to put Democrats on the defensive by accusing critics of President Bush's decision to send thousands more troops to Iraq of failing to "support the troops" there.

This line of attack could explode this week, when Congress returns from a short recess. The Democratic majority will shift tactics from seeking nonbinding antiwar resolutions to trying to limit troop deployments and curb funding for the Iraq war.

Historians, political strategists and linguists say that questioning Democrats' loyalty to the troops is probably the best leverage supporters of the unpopular war have left.

"What that reflects is the aftermath of Vietnam and what happened to the Democrats," said Stephen Hess, a George Washington University professor and Brookings Institution scholar who worked in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. Although polls show that solid public majorities oppose the war, Democrats still can be portrayed as undermining the troops.

The Bush administration and its congressional allies, however, are open to countercharges that they have overworked the Army and Marine Corps, failed to provide troops with adequate armor, and neglected serious problems in how the military and the Veterans Administration are caring for wounded warriors.

Democrats also can argue that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home, said Frank Luntz, the pollster and language consultant who shaped the Republicans' 1994 "Contract With America."

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