From Josh Marshall:
Kerry needs a catch phrase or catch question about the Iraq war, one that provides offense against President Bush’s oft-stated, extremely lame, but also somewhat effective line that the world is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power.
In political rhetoric, coherence and clarity almost always trumps substance. So substance must be rendered very coherent and very clear.
There’s a pretty obvious response to the Bush line: Yeah, Saddam sucked. It’s great that we’re rid of him. But at what cost? A thousand American lives, upwards of half a trillion dollars and blowing up the whole world order?’
Yet that just means going on to defense and drowning yourself in details.
Ronald Reagan got to the heart of the matter when he asked voters in 1980 if they thought they were better off than they had been four years before. That got cut to the essence of voters’ discontent. And it spoke for itself.
As I wrote earlier today, I think voters know Iraq has become a disaster.
The subject of the phrase or question has to be: Don’t you know President Bush has blown it in Iraq? It needs to be shorn of zingers and rage and allowed to make the point clearly.
Often I think these sorts of points are made best by asking voters to think in retrospect — especially in this case since there are very few people out there — certainly very few who aren’t already deeply committed to President Bush — who wouldn’t love the chance to rewind this tape if they could.
The essence of it is, “Do you think Iraq has made us safer or less safe?” … “If you had to do it over again, would you trust George W. Bush to get this right?”
Neither of those quite cut it. And I’m thinking aloud here. But I’d like to throw it open for suggestions. What should Kerry’s version Reagan line from 1980?
Any good suggestions to offer Marshall?