Winning in the trenches?

Peggy Noonan:


What the Democrats lost this week was the chance to paint the '08 campaign as a brilliant Napoleonic twinning of strategy and tactics that left history awed. What they have instead is a ticket to Verdun. Trench warfare, and the daily, wearying life of the soldier under siege. The mud, the cold, the dank water rotting the boots, all of it punctuated by mad cries of "Over the top," bayonets fixed.


How did Hillary come back? Her own staff doesn't know. They fight over it because if they don't know how she carried Ohio and Texas they can't repeat the strategy.


What do I think is the biggest reason Mrs. Clinton came back? She kept her own spirits up to the point of denial and worked it, hard, every day. She is hardy, resilient, tough. She is a train on a track, an Iron Horse. But we must not become carried away with generosity. The very qualities that impress us are the qualities that will make her a painful president. She does not care what you think, she will have what she wants, she will not do the feints, pivots and backoffs that presidents must. She is neither nimble nor agile, and she knows best. She will wear a great nation down.


Back to Verdun. There a bitter officer corps debated a strategy of pointless carnage—so many deaths, so little seized terrain, all of it barren. In a bark-stripping piece of reportage in the Washington Post, Peter Baker and Anne Kornblut captured "a combustible environment" in Hillary Headquarters. They cannot agree on what to do, or even what has been done in the past. And the dialogue. Blank you. Blank you! No blank you, you blank. Blank all of you. It's like David Mamet rewritten by Joe Pesci.

These are the things that make life worth living.


When it comes to World War I, I have always thought the Somme battle was the one that finally proved that the current machinery of warfare had made it impossible to have direct attacks against defended positions without a bloody slaughter. It was a lesson learned over and over again in the US Civil War at places like Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. It took a change in machinery and tactics to overcome the stalemate. The introduction of tanks, infiltration assaults, and air craft made the difference. There is no indication that Obama's new tactics will carry the day, and Noonan makes the point that Clinton has dragged him into the trench warfare she prefers.

It is important to remember that she did not overwhelm Obama in Texas and Ohio, but merely held him off. She was able to run out the clock before he could overtake her and he clearly had momentum in Texas despite the demographic advantage Clinton had. If Clinton has done anything to turn the momentum around she may have Saturday Night Live to think. Their skit of the media, in effect, fluffing Obama's pillow while beating up on her caused a change in the coverage that made his above the fray strategy less successful.

Yes, Clinton was relentless and refused to quit, but that is one of the things winners do that separate them from losers. You see it in sports all the time.

Noonan believes that President Bush's embrace of McCain will be a problem and it maybe. Much of the dislike of President Bush is irrational. His adoption of the new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq has created an opportunity for a huge victory over our enemies who already know they cannot defeat us in conventional warfare. Defeating the insurgency strategy can produce results that will make diplomatic solutions more likely in the future. The country and the Democrats should embrace this results rather than trying to gut it.

I think much of Bush's unpopularity has resulted from his stopping his campaign mode after the 2004 election. His opponents ratcheted up their campaign against him at the time he quit fighting back. Putting him back on the campaign trail where he has been effective may wind up being good for him, McCain, and the country. One of the interesting things about Karl Rove's stepping down from the White House job is that he has become more visible and demonstrated the kind of thinking that led to Bush's political success. He should have been out there doing that while he still worked for him.


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