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Congressional Dems Aim for Security Parity

Faced with the prospect of Republicans turning the midterm elections into a referendum on which party can keep Americans safe, congressional Democrats vowed Wednesday to take the fight to the majority party come November.

Harry Reid
Democratic Party leaders touted their "Real Security" agenda at a Washington press conference Wednesday. (Getty Images)

To an overflow crowd in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, party leaders Harry Reid (Nev.) and Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), along with party luminaries like retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright unveiled the Democrats' "Real Security" plan. (Post reporter Dan Balz and I wrote on the press conference in today's Post.)

The event was light on specifics but heavy on rhetoric.

On Iraq, the plan pledges to "ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" including a "responsible redeployment" of U.S. forces. But it does not offer specifics on either a timetable for withdrawal or on the number of troops the redeployment would entail.

The plan also vows to "eliminate" Osama bin Laden and "destroy terrorist networks like Al Qaeda." To do that, Democrats propose a doubling of U.S. Special Forces and an increase in "human intelligence capabilities."

The assembled Democrats talked little about these specific proposals, however, focusing their remarks mainly on the "incompetence" of the Bush administration. Clark used the word "incompetent" to describe the current administration a whopping five times in his brief speech; Albright said the "rank incompetence" of President Bush was unparalleled in modern history.

There were other poll-tested phrases thrown around Tuesday, most notably "tough and smart." Both Pelosi and Reid emphasized that the Democrats' security plan was "tough and smart," a mantra that was repeated in the pamphlet handed out at the event. Democrats have done considerable polling on national security issues in recent months to find out the best way to talk about an issue that has long been seen as the party's weak spot with voters.

Privately, Democratic strategists acknowledge their goal is parity not dominance over Republicans when it comes to security issues. Polling done over the past few months has shown Democrats closing the traditional gap Republicans enjoy on which party voters trust to better handle terrorism and homeland security questions. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey showed Republicans with a 45 percent to 41 percent edge on the question of which party is better equipped to handle terrorism concerns; in the summer of 2003 Republicans held a huge 55 percent to 29 percent advantage on that question in the poll.

Republicans are clearly concerned about the Democratic strategy on security. The Republican National Committee released a five-page advance rebuttal on Tuesday. The document featured quotes from a variety of Democratic leaders (Reid, Pelosi, former Vice President Al Gore, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold) that Republicans say directly contradict the Democrats' get-tough message on security.

"What we heard today was campaign rhetoric, but the reality is many Democrats not only oppose monitoring known terrorists, but have voted to cut intelligence spending, and against giving law enforcement agents the tools they need to protect America," said RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

Potential 2008 Democratic presidential nominees were in attendance Tuesday. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), the frontrunner for the 2008 nomination, was in attendance but stood in the far back of the gathering of lawmakers -- decidedly out of the spotlight. Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), the party's nominee in 2004, was more prominently featured in the middle of the posed group. Sens. Joe Biden (Del.) and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) were also in attendance.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 30, 2006; 9:32 AM ET
Categories:  House , Senate  
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I have to laugh each time a SUV roars by me with their Kerry/Edwards 2004 bumper sticker still on their gas guzzler. Let me get this straight, Kerry and kennedy blocked wind turbines from their rich fat cat Nantucket harbor and they are still screaming for alternative fuel? yes, come on Dems, you offer nothing like the leadership of FDR or Truman or even JFK

Posted by: Julie | March 31, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Ohio guy: Amen. More evidence for the crying need for a keyboard-based system that delivers antipsychotics.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 31, 2006 9:04 AM | Report abuse

>> YOU are the one who is always on here spewing hatred and moronic drivel, like "Bush stole the election, US Out of North America, Howard Dean Is Not Really a Complete Lunatic, OJ Was Innocent, Let's Relive the VietNam War Protests and Kent State" <<

I assume that by "YOU" you mean me, Ohio guy? I only ask because I have NEVER made any of those claims that you attribute to me above. I have NEVER said any of those things or even supported those positions on this blog or any other forum.

Get your facts straight before you open your pie hole moron. The fact that all you do is try to put words in people's mouths and make wild accusations when anyone poses a serious question to you proves you are nothing but a stark raving lunatic who couldn't make a coherent, factual argument to save your pathetic life.

Posted by: Ohio guy | March 31, 2006 3:25 AM | Report abuse

YOU are the one who is always on here spewing hatred and moronic drivel, like "Bush stole the election, US Out of North America, Howard Dean Is Not Really a Complete Lunatic, OJ Was Innocent, Let's Relive the VietNam War Protests and Kent State" and all of your other ridiculous statements written for you by your acid-dropping college professor due to the fact that you are illiterate.

YOU are the one who is living in the past. Kerry IS a buffoon. And you are even a bigger fool for supporting him, because you nominated the only person in America besides Howard Dean who couldve lost to an idiot. Get a freaking clue.

Posted by: Sandy | March 31, 2006 1:57 AM | Report abuse

>> "Kerry is a buffoon. How can anyone take him seriously" <<

Wow Sandy, what an insightful, intelligent(not to mention completely off-topic) post about a losing presidential candidate from two years ago. Jesus Christ get over your hatred already.

Idiotic rants like yours only prove that wingnuts like yourself sit around foaming at the mouth from your rabies, worshipping Faux News, and stabbibg little voodoo John Kerry and Hillary Clinton dolls. Every once in a while you guys receive the Rove talking points in the mail so you can repeat stupididty like "those who question the war are aiding the terrorists" and "pre-9/11 mindset". Good thing, b/c i'm sure an original thought has never occurred to any Bushbot such as yourself.

Posted by: Ohio guy | March 30, 2006 8:45 PM | Report abuse

RMill: incisive analysis (as usual) of Karen. Her dedication in posting here is amazing: she actually has to stop watching Faux News (at least for a few minutes) to do so. Such sacrifice! Makes vivabush look like Jerry Rubin.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 30, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Evan Bayh the first to come up with this phrase? He does not get any credit

Posted by: Tough and Smart... | March 30, 2006 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Packard and Karen are among those Republicans who have a fever swamp between their ears -- and all they can do is parrot Rove's talking points. Since there's really nothing they can say to defend Bush's incompetence, they resort to constructing these absurd straw men arguments, like 'Dems say Osama Bin Ladin built daycare centers'. Huh?

I don't know what flavor koolaid they drink, but it must be some incredible stuff.

Posted by: Drindl | March 30, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

To THS: Does George Will write anything but an excellent column? He is the master.

Posted by: Rick in Cincy | March 30, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't have much use for these polls that show the gap between Repubs and Dems on national security narrowing. As a Dem I hate to say it, but when the rubber hits the road I suspect that Repubs can simply shout "ACLU" and "wiretaps", and watch the gap grow.

Posted by: Rick in Cincy | March 30, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I am tempted to respond point by point but what's the point?

Unless you are intellectually bankrupt, trash should only be tossed away and not sifted through for value.

Posted by: RMill | March 30, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Let's see, Dems are for privacy rights for terrorists, they hate law-abiding arab companies, but want citizenship for gang members, drug dealers, cop killers who are here illegally. 11 million illegal immigrants with no health insurance. Forget the millions waiting their turn. To them, U.S. soldiers are terrorist and work at the Gulag, but we should believe that Osama Bin Laden built daycare centers (uh, I thought women couldn't work). Of course, we got evesdropping McDermott as their Civil Rights Leader, and slugger McKinney as their forward commander. Nancy Pelosi, doing her best runaway bride/deer in the headlight impression, will tell us that Christians are the source of all that is evil. These is a fun group.

Posted by: Karen | March 30, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

"har, har, har. Finding a Democrat who actually supports national defense is as easy as finding a virgin in a whorehouse."

Makes you wonder where Joe Lieberman is spending his nights.

Posted by: RMill | March 30, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Amen, Colin. And honestly, I don't see where the perception comes from that Repubs are better at defense. Is it because angry white men are better at security than calmer white men, women, black people and hispanics? I dunno. Also, chris-- why is it that every time you mention Hillary Clinton you have to say "the front-runner for the 2008 nomination" directly afterwards? We all know you see her as the frontrunner, but she hasn't even declared yet-- the media just anointed her. Let's calm down and take a step back, shall we?

Posted by: Jake | March 30, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Packard -- Great post, but it does leave me wondering:

1. Does supporting national defense extend beyond registering and voting republican?; and

2. Exactly what actions by Democrats constitute "supporting the rights of the Islamofascists" that you refer to? Is it the fact that Dems think maybe focusing on catching Osama Bin Laden would have been more productive that further destabilizing Iraq? Or is it that Dems are in favor of actually screening what comes into the country through our ports?

I mean seriously, if you want to disagree with Dems positions then do so. Don't just post some silly generalized rubbish about how Democrats want to help our enemies kill us. That's both ignorant and unproductive.

Posted by: Colin | March 30, 2006 1:28 PM | Report abuse

A much more detailed version of the plan can be found here:

I don't know why they didn't link to this from their own site.

Posted by: tbrosz | March 30, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me the party of the deadenders, the GOP, still can't think straight.

Wake me up when their first reaction isn't to spend more money on useless operations that won't help defend America.

$9 Trillion and counting ...

Posted by: Will in Seattle | March 30, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Enjoy your debate on which party most supports "national defense", Americans.

Most people around the world would characterise your country's military policy as one of attack, not defense.

Posted by: OD | March 30, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Kerry is a buffoon. How can anyone take him seriously

Posted by: Sandy | March 30, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

har, har, har. Finding a Republican who actually supports national defense is as easy as finding a virgin in a whorehouse.

Posted by: Original thought hurts my brain | March 30, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

"Strong and Smart"

har, har, har. Finding a Democrat who actually supports national defense is as easy as finding a virgin in a whorehouse.

You may count me most happy when I discover that Democrats are actually trying to refrain from actively supporting the rights of the Islamofascists now trying to kill us.


Posted by: Packard | March 30, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

SORRY, he link to the original Dallas Morning News Article

Posted by: bOBBYWC | March 30, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse


I am tired beyond comprehension with the argument that one political party over another cares more about our national security than another - "It’s politics stupid - all politics" If there were any doubts about my position, then the Democrats would not have destroyed the UAE port deal. Shame on both sides for how personal political ambition became more important than our own national security. It is more complex than one port deal - it also includes making friends and spheres of influence.While a simple ruling by one Republican judge on an all Republican appellate panel out of Dallas, Texas would not really seem to matter in this discussion, it does matter when that judge is Elizabeth Lang-Miers, sister-in-law to Harriet Miers, and the key beneficiaries of the ruling are Bush cronies.
Miers ruled that if incriminating documents are found in a dumpster on private property, by an average Joe, removal of those documents from the dumpster would be theft of private property. - To understand the issue, one must understand that this means that if an average Joe walks by a Mosque of a known extremist Islamic group and retrieves from their dumpster a document which implicates the members in criminal activity or obstruction of justice, removal of the documents from the dumpster by the average Joe would be illegal.
This does not help national security - its all politics - it is always all politics and it is time we simply accept reality - politics will always prevail over national security and justice. What Republican Judge Miers does not say in her opinion is, many of the stolen documents were the personal property of Frank Sharpe and did not come from the dumpster - Republican Judge Miers did not allow the facts to get in the way - she simply ignored the sworn testimony of Frank Sharpe and issued a ruling which potentially compromised national security - all in the name of protecting Bush cronies. A final trial in this matter not only will compromise Turley, but more importantly the Bush cronies who tried to illegally have the Diocese judgment voided. Of note, but note a Bush crony, Jim Morony, Publisher of the Dallas Morning News is a key player who is being protected by keeping the truth out of the courtroom.
The following link is the original Dallas Morning News story linking all the key players to a back door deal to void the original 119 million dollar judgment against the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. Not only was Jim Morony in attendance, but so too were judges, pro bono attorney to the Texas Supreme Court Darryl Jordon, and D-Magazine editor Wick Allison - Republican strategist, Rob Ally, advisor to the Mexican government, attended subsequent meetings. DMNTower.pdf
For a related cover-up by the same Bush Crony, Elizabeth Lan-Miers - sister-in-law to Harriet Miers see,
Bobby Wightman-Cervantes

Posted by: Bobby WC | March 30, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

An off-topic post for those who were following the discussion on immigration yesterday: Both George Will and David Broder have good columns on immigration today. Check them out if you haven't already.

Posted by: THS | March 30, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

So the 'event was light on specifics but heavy on rhetoric.' Excuse me, Chris, but what is 'stay the course' in Iraq, hmm? What is 'we'll stand down as the Iraqis stand up'?

Where are the specifics in anything Bush says about his war? What is ANYTHING he says but a shallow, meaningless collection of focus-group slogans and spin, propaganda and outright lies?

And incidentally, why does every political story in the Post end with a paragraph of indefensible dogma by GOP attack parrot Tracy Schmitt?

Posted by: Drindl | March 30, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Polling to find out which buzz words resonate with potential voters isn't exactly how want security issues decided on. Yet according to the Post today, that's how they set up their message.

And folks wonder why the Dem's are seen as light on the topic.

Posted by: Crazy Politico | March 30, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Agree with TZfan: what is a bold-faced, talking-points lie in comparison to strong but arguable hyperbole? Why didn't Chris say "the Republican response was at least equal in terms of its rhetorical content"?

At least find a more balanced counterpoint next time. Snowe, McCain, anyone exhibiting an ounce of responsiblity for the words that are coming out of their mouth. Quoting the cheerleaders at either the DNC or the RNC generates heat but no light.

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), the frontrunner for the 2008 nomination, was in attendance but stood in the far back of the gathering of lawmakers -- decidedly out of the spotlight." So, the JUNIOR senator from NY wasn't at the microphone. Does that necessarily mean anything? Criminy, maybe it's because she's the JUNIOR senator from NY.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 30, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

While Cillizza characterizes the Democrats' security message as "light on specifics but heavy on rhetoric", he quotes an RNC spokesperson making the absurd accusation that "many Democrats ... oppose monitoring known terrorists"-a totally false accusation.

Posted by: TZfan | March 30, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Amen to that Intrepid Liberal Journal

Posted by: A citizen | March 30, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The GOP will counterattack the best they can with propaganda and lies. But the truth is breaking through the din now. Even the stenographer corporatist media hacks like those who work at the Washington Post can't contain the truth now. The GOP is not the party of security. They're are the party corporatist theocracy.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | March 30, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

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