RON PAUL: TRIMMING HIS SAILS? Well, more like trimming the tree, as he's not really changing his message, just, um, decorating it. But driving home this afternoon I heard a Ron Paul radio commercial on XM and he's downplaying the war issue, which was his big schtick not long ago. Now it came third, after "amnesty" on immigration and uncontrolled federal spending. And the commercial never used the words "Iraq" or "war" -- it was all about opposing "nation-building" in foreign countries.
Apparently the Paul campaign shares my view that the improving situation in Iraq can be turned into a plus for Paul's candidacy, not a minus, if the issues are pitched right.
All in all, violence in Iraq has dropped precipitously since late summer. With Al Qaeda declared dead, former Sunni resistance fighters wearing American-supplied uniforms, and the Mahdi Army lying low, killings in Iraq are way down. The security situation in Iraq is far better than it's been at any time since 2005. Many American antiwar critics, who are invested in the notion that no good news can come out of Iraq and who (secretly or openly) revel in the Bush administration's Iraqi failures, are reluctant to admit that things are getting better.
Perhaps they worry that, if the situation in Iraq improves, the prospect of Democratic gains at the polls next November will diminish. Perhaps they've convinced themselves that Iraq's ethnic and sectarian divide is so enormous that partition is the only solution, and that Iraq doesn't deserve to be a country anyway. Perhaps their distaste for President Bush (which I share) is so all-consuming that they fear any improvement in the situation will be credited to the President -- something they can't tolerate.
If so, that's perverse. The fact is: There is a critical window of opportunity opening for the United States to withdraw and for Iraq to hold itself together and rebuild. To the extent that things are getting better, that's good news.
Yeah, it is. Nice that people are noticing. But it's also, paradoxically, bad news for the Republicans in that those who have held their nose and stuck with the GOP because of the war are likely to feel freer to vote for people they agree with on other issues. And while it's true that Iraq is not the war on terror, it's also likely that the post-2009 phase of the war on terror will involve less outright war and more spying, backstabbing, subtle undermining, bribery, extortion and cooptation. Hmm. What candidate might be good at that sort of thing?