So it was that Bush yesterday embraced an analogy he has long resisted -- albeit on his own terms (and in a way that's bugging historians). Iraq is like Vietnam, he affirmed, but not in the way Democrats have been claiming when they've thrown around words like "quagmire." The president offered up phrases of his own: "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields,' " Bush said.
The true audience wasn't the veterans Bush addressed yesterday in Kansas City, but the members of Congress -- of both parties -- who are awaiting the Petraeus report before deciding whether to stick with the president's strategy. It's "a new communications effort to frame the debate by casting the war in historical terms," write Maura Reynolds and James Gerstenzang of the Los Angeles Times. "The newest element in the president's communications strategy was a willingness to discuss Vietnam, a conflict that critics of the Iraq war often cite to suggest that the United States should cut its losses in Iraq and begin withdrawing."
The war is going a long way toward shaping yet another election, and the ad battles have just begun. The new campaign from "Freedom Watch" urges the public to call to be patched through to members of Congress (just don't expect to get through if you tell the operator you don't think the war in Iraq is vital to the war on terror). And anti-war groups are pushing back: "The flurry of ads . . . may make voters in the targeted regions feel like it's August 2008 -- in the heat of the presidential campaign -- instead of 2007," writes Politico's Martin Kady II. "But the dueling campaigns underscore the gargantuan preemptive effort by both parties to hold the line on Iraq regardless of what Petraeus' report says."
As for Edwards, he's kicking off a New Hampshire bus tour today with a speech casting his campaign as "the establishment elites versus the American people." (Anyone want to guess which side he's on?) He does not mention Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by name, but you don't need much imagination to figure out who he's talking about with these tough new lines.
"It is a choice between the failed compromises of the past and the bright possibilities of our future," Edwards, D-N.C., plans to say this morning in Hanover, N.H., per excerpts released by his campaign. "The trouble with nostalgia is that you tend to remember what you liked and forget what you didn't. It's not just that the answers of the past aren't up to the job today, it's that the system that produced them was corrupt -- and still is. . . . We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other."
He's also trying to secure the "change" mantle for himself -- setting up a contrast over substance with Obama, D-Ill. "I don't think just the word 'change' means much to people," Edwards told the AP's Philip Elliott in previewing his bus tour. "I think what they want to see is . . . the substance of what you want to do. I mean, what is the policy of the word?"