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Schumer’s Strategy

Ruminating to the New York Observer about his party's prospects come 2008, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer dropped this prediction: Bombing Iran, says Chuck Schumer, would be a big political loser for Republican candidates in 2008. “It would … Read More

By / November 5, 2007

Ruminating to the New York Observer about his party's prospects come 2008, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer dropped this prediction:

Bombing Iran, says Chuck Schumer, would be a big political loser for Republican candidates in 2008.

“It would change the landscape against them, big time,” Mr. Schumer, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said about a scenario in which the Bush administration launches a military attack on Iran before leaving office. “I don’t think they are likely to do it, because they are so weak—not because they are chastened—but I also think it is very likely to be a negative political for them.”

Now, far be it from me to offer sound political advice to the man who engineered a remarkable victory for Democrats in the Senate in last year, picking up six seats (his aid in ending the political career of George Allen is reason alone to consider his tenure as DSCC chair a success), but is Schumer here indicating a belief that presidential administrations should determine grave foreign policy decisions based upon whether or they will be net "negative" or "positive political" for them? Or is he just blaming the Bush administration for this sort of cynical calculation? If short-term political viability was the utmost concern of the Bush administration (and Congressional Republicans), would not the president have removed all American forces out of Iraq a long time ago? The crass, score-keeper way in which Schumer discusses matters of war and peace is unsettling.

But since Schumer brought it up and fashions himself such a keen strategist, let's take a look at the actual numbers, shall we? According to a Zogby poll published last week, 52% of Americans said they would support a military strike against Iran in order to prevent it from gaining nuclear weapons. Lest one think that the poll somehow indicates a right-wing preference, 41% of Democrats would support one a strike and 21% of all those polled believe that Hillary Clinton is the candidate best equipped to deal with the Iranian threat, more than any other candidate.

I offer this poll not by way of saying that Schumer should emulate the cynicism he seems to accuse the Bush administration of exhibing by rallying Democrats in support of a strike, but to point out that his vaunted knowledge of the electorate and how to win is a bit over-hyped (that 52% number will only increase, by the way, as the Iranians progress in their nuclear program and as Iraq's political situation continues to stabilize). Americans want to hear how the Democrats propose to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, not the score-keeping of a campaign strategist whose ultimate interest is picking up Senate seats. Casting aspersions on the administration by insinuating that — were it to seek authorization for strikes against Iran — such a move would be predicated entirely upon a desire to boost GOP poll numbers hardly instills confidence in the political party that has long lacked voter trust when it comes to issues of national security. Indeed, the fact that Schumer brings up such crude motivations at all suggests that he is the one willing to play politics with national security. 

 

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