2012 southern strategy and the giant pincer movement on Afghanistan
The political equation of winning-and-losing is far from the most important point about Afghanistan. The shooting spree by a U.S. soldier who apparently had a nervous breakdown and shot Afghan civilians, including women and children, is only the most recent dreadful event.
Not one Afghani was on those planes on September 11, 2001. Not one. The only connection between Afghanistan and the paired, parallel attacks of 9/11 was Osama bin Laden, encamped with his wealth in the ruling regime over the hapless Afghanis.
There was also not one political reporter in the national political press in Washington, D.C., who pointed out this fact in the heyday of George W. Bush’s popularity after 9/11.
The Afghan people—much as they undoubtedly hated foreigners on Islamic territory—had about as much say in regard to bin Laden’s presence as television viewers in the U.S. today have in regard to the number of commercials on cable television. Or less, since theoretically our elected officials could brace up the FCC and control paid commercials on air time that subscribers have already paid for.
On the campaign trail, the only Republican candidate who comes close to persuasive sanity on the Middle East is still Ron Paul, whose views have been consistent throughout his years in Congress.
A new development looms, however, politically speaking. On yesterday morning’s talk shows, Newt Gingrich began making little noises about pulling out of Afghanistan. Not a clarion call, still a deviation from the usual bellicosity. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, as always, continue to call for more bloodshed, and even the concept of an end in sight—some day—continues to be disparaged or ridiculed. So on one side of the argument, as the GOP presidential campaign swings through the South, you have Paul and to some extent Gingrich; on the other you have Romney and Santorum.
In narrowly political terms, it’s a lose-lose for the president, as always with these guys, in a situation not of Obama’s making. If Obama succeeds in getting us out of Afghanistan—as most decent people hope—it will be too soon for Romney, Santorum and the professional saber rattlers, no matter when it is. If we remain mired in Afghanistan, there will be hints from the Gingrich types that more could be done to get out.
There is always an underlying tension between GOP voters who are primarily evangelicals, on one hand, and GOPers who are primarily fans of militarism. There is also a tension between extreme militarists and genuine fiscal conservatives. Wars cost treasure as well as blood. The uneasy overlap among the three big ‘wings’ of the party—rightwing Christians, rightwing monetarists, and rightwing militarists—also goes largely unreported in a press contingent eager to play up divisions among Latinos or other Democratic voters.
It will be interesting to see whether Gingrich’s most recent comments on Afghanistan affect his results in tomorrow’s southern primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, for better or worse. He has sagged somewhat in polls over the past couple of days.
Meanwhile, in the South, the campaigns are working hard. Voters (including Democratic voters) across the Mississippi Delta are being inundated with robo-calls from the Romney campaign. One asks the householder to stay on the line for a telephone ‘town meeting’ with Rick Santorum, who is heard saying (2008) that Romney is the only choice. Another offers a recorded conversation between Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi, agreeing on something. Another brings the recorded voice of former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, announcing that Gingrich has been censured by Congress on ethics charges.
Speaking of the FCC.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, Romney is being castigated for the wrong things. Far too many commentators are harpooning his harmless “grits” comments–about liking grits, about eating the local food while in the South. Far too few are taking him to task for being in favor of apparently every war, everywhere, regardless of the cost to other Americans and to other human beings.
But the establishment GOP has been given a free pass on that for years.