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Was the 'War on Terror' a win for Republicans?

In my earlier thread asking where the GOP's electoral hardball had gotten it, the Iraq War keeps coming up. Commenter Hopeful9, for instance, writes:

The official policy of the country is eternal war "on terror", endless occupation of two Middle Eastern countries, and collecting less in taxes than the government spends, yet Ezra thinks conservatives have not gained anything.

I mentioned tax cuts in the original post, but hadn't talked about the War on Terror. The first point I'd make is that without 9/11, there's no War on Terror. So it's not so clearly related to Republican political tactics. But more broadly, do people think that the “War on Terror” was a win for Republicans? I don't see it that way. I remember George W. Bush running on a "humble" foreign policy, as that's what Republicans wanted. Then 9/11 happens, he makes common cause with the neoconservatives, and the base rallies around him. If anything, it was neoconservatives playing hardball with conservatives. But maybe others disagree.

As for the questions of what hardball political tactics get you, the most convincing argument I've heard thus far is Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which arguably did have an impact on the 2004 election.

By Ezra Klein  | October 18, 2010; 5:20 PM ET
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Probably not.

Given 2004's high GDP growth, the fact that W. gave away billions of $ to the high voting seniors, and the general 8 year Presidential cycle that has persisted since WWII (with the exception of the bumbling idiot Carter and maybe odumba too), W would have probably beaten Kerry harder without Iraq than with it.

It was maybe good in 2002. Thats about it.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 18, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Course, no War on Terror means no Obama, either, and probably means a much wiser and more accomplished President Hillary.

Maybe the GOP lucked out getting the hope and change big talker instead.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 18, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

"without 9/11, there's no War on Terror."

Oh lordy. Your (lack of) age is showing.

Google Ronald Reagan war on terror.


Posted by: GBMcM | October 18, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

How about the Willie Horton ads run against Dukakis by President George H.W. Bush? Those proved to be smart attack (and bullshit) politics.

Or more recently the race in Wisconsin where a conservative candidate ran ads claiming (falsely) that the more liberal Justice helped free a rapist.

Or the attack on Valerie Plame by the Bush administration after her husband published an article declaring shenanigans on the "Saddam is buying yellow-cake uranium" nonsense.

All effective in either winning elections or making the target unable to get their point across. All effective attacks.

Posted by: MadIrishFrog | October 18, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I would suggest that hardball tactics have gotten quite a bit. 1." a steady drift to the right by both parties, with the public believing all sorts of things about policy matters which simply aren't true. " 2. The presidency of George W. Bush via court order 3. Kerry's loss 4. Obama negotiating himself into poor policy (see Krugman today) 5. at least one propaganda network, and a large portion of the population blind to it 6. a "war on terror" that somehow turned into a war on Iraq

Ezra, is this a jest?

Posted by: comma1 | October 18, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

More broadly, you utterly miss the point of why Conway's ad is good.

We know R's fight, and fight hard, using whatever weapons come to hand. And they are perfectly willing to trash perfectly sensible, reasonable policy in pursuit of political advantage. Hell, they'll shut down the gov't just to score points.

A Dem candidate who looks like he won't fold at the first feint is a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: GBMcM | October 18, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the response Ezra.

Posted by: Hopeful9 | October 18, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

It took a major economic collapse to get a democrat into office despite a GOP record or scandal, bungled wars, and economic malfeasance.

Less than two years later their billionaire owned media has put the GOP in position to consolidate their grip over a fearful and paranoid America.

Robert Reichs latest blog describes how the elite are constructing a permanent plutocracy in America.

The war on terror is but one tool the neocon elite have taken over here.

Go read reich's blog and weep for what we've become.

The enemy is not Obama, but billionaires like Murdoch and the Koch brothers and the neocon supreme court who have now firmly handed over our democracy to the highest bidder.

Posted by: lauren2010 | October 18, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

"The enemy is not Obama, but billionaires like Murdoch and the Koch brothers and the neocon supreme court who have now firmly handed over our democracy to the highest bidder."

Folks, this is how you identify an elitist liberal.

It must be the Koch brothers; it can't be the fact that the economy is at 1.6% GDP growth, job growth is negative for the Obama Presidency, or that government spending is hitting new records.

Naturally, ideologues will make excuses for these numbers. Predictable in a way. But the middle 20% of the nation don't share your ideological view.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 18, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

I consider myself a Liberal and a Tea Party Patriot. I vote Republican these days though. The Economic Train is completely off the tracks and the only thing the Democrats want to do is integrate first class.

Anyway, overall I think the War on Terror has been about a tie for the Republicans. They won on it in 2002-2004 but lost on it in 2006-2008. I think the 2010 election is simply about the economy and to a lesser extent the Democrats breaching the trust of Liberals like me. I still support medicare, social security, the safety net, public education, etc. The Democrats are just nuts these days. They remind me of the Republican spending spree under Bush. I think with many Tea Party members such as Rand Paul we'll see spending slow down a bit.

Posted by: richmond_dude | October 18, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

"As for the questions of what hardball political tactics get you, the most convincing argument I've heard thus far is Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which arguably did have an impact on the 2004 election."

That's much more extremely dishonest propaganda politics than hardball, and yes, sadly, with how shameful our press is, it does often work very effectively.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | October 19, 2010 3:31 AM | Report abuse

Despite retiring the GWOT moniker, the Obama Administration is following, and in some cases surpassing, the erosion of civil liberties that Bush II mainstreamed. Doesn't total acceptance of the neocon framework by everyone but the hippies count as a conservative policy victory?

Posted by: stonedone | October 19, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

The greatest terrorists of the century, Bush-Chenney-Rumsfeld,Wolf...witz and no one yet declare war on them. War on terror, the fear and warmongers' invention only succeeded by ruining this nation internally and externally.
And speaking of war on terror, we have not came even close to win the ones at home, economic tyrany by corporations, the US mafia, the drug and wars industries, racism and ignorance.

Posted by: postDC | October 19, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

calls president Carter an idiot, this confirms what I just said previously we must fight ignorance or we are doomed.

Posted by: postDC | October 19, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Very good points about the neocon highjacking of the conservative foreign policy agenda that Bush II ran on in 2000- by Cheney. Pre-emptive strike is not conservative FP. Bush II was not a conservative in that regard or in the economic regard, which are the only two pieces of conservatism I care for. Morals based social conservatism was the only kind he actually claimed, but he didn't actually do much to pursue it...

Posted by: staticvars | October 19, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It's unfortunate that we must politicize everything about the war on terror. We did not pick this fight but we have to either win or continue to keep the fight in their backyard not ours. I'm sure the families of the fallen soldiers aren't thinking political, just patriotic!!! I'm positive president Bush would rather 911 never happened but since it did he handled it in the way we as Americans hired him to. The solution to ending this war can be found in The GH-4 Effect.

Posted by: snydersweb | October 21, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

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