This week George Bush jacked up his rhetoric on Iraq, charging that "the Democratic party is the party of cut and run." We've heard this accusation before from Republicans, but usually the commander in chief only hints at it, leaving the more direct formulation to political operatives or at least his vice president (for some, that's a distinction without a difference).
The cut-and-run phrase is an effective political weapon. It's pithy and plays on the public perception that Democrats are weak on issues of national security. The Democrats also can't agree about what to do in Iraq, so they can't fight back effectively.
It is also a very dumb phrase. It diminishes the debate by suggesting all options are crystal clear. It poisons the dialogue by angering those reasonable Democrats in Congress who are searching for a middle ground and by freezing those Republicans who want to offer constructive criticism but can't for fear they'll be accused of wanting to cut and run. As one Republican congressman put it recently: "Reality has been suspended for a moment. Republicans cannot speak out publicly on this issue right now."(emph. added)
[..]But the most important reason the president shouldn't use any formulation of the "cut and run" language is that withdrawing from Iraq is part of his strategy. Secretary of State Rice just made a surprise visit to Iraq, and her message to Iraqi leaders had a hard truth at its core: If you don't make more progress faster, we're out of here. American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad uses this stick in his negotiations every day. President Bush told Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, last month ''that the United States of America stands with them, so long as the government continues to make the tough choices necessary for peace to prevail.'' Mr. Talabani might have asked the president what the United States of America would do if the Iraqis don't make those tough choices. Will the United States cut and run? Read on...