What was the potential victory? Many Americans, even ones who once strongly supported the Iraq war, are beginning to tire of it, and are open to (constructive) criticisms about how the war effort is being conducted. The Democrats were beginning to provide credible criticism (at least some of it constructive) and could have had a good chance at winning the debate in at least some peoples' minds. That might have helped make them electable.
Instead, with the resurgence of the Plame affair and the indictment of Libby (Vice-President Cheney's chief of staff), the Democrats are switching from focusing on constructive issues back to the old and very tired meme of "Bush lied, people died". In other words, the Dems are back to claiming that Bush led us to war by tricking everyone.
There are two problems with this: it's not true (or at least not true enough) so that those that claim it look like liars themselves, or at least they look like partisan hacks, and more importantly, moderate voters don't care - politicians are inherently liars, that's part of their job description, we're in Iraq, we need to do the best we can.
First a little bit about the lack of truth. According to the Washington Post:
The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.None of the possible explanations makes the Democrats who made such statements look good given that they are now saying the opposite. Since they have security clearances and have access to classified (and unclassified) intelligence information, they either didn't do their job, they got fooled by Bush, or they were taking and are continuing to take the politically expedient path even if that path is damaging the country. The three corresponding slogans would be "Vote for Us! We're Incompetent", "Democrats: Dumber than Bush!", or "The Party of Prevailing Winds: Vote Democrat!". None of those sound particularly appealing to me, but hey, what do I know?
One of the Democratic law makers who voted to give Bush authority to go to war was Jay Rockefeller. Here's a brief excerpt from an interview of him by Chris Wallace regarding his vote:
WALLACE: But you voted, sir, and aren't you responsible for your vote?
SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No...
Well, okay then. And we should vote for a leader who refuses to take responsibility for his votes because why?
Scott Ott writes a (more or less) daily parody (called Scrappleface) of current events, but sometimes, it's difficult for me to tell the difference between his parodies and reality. The following excerpt of a recent piece by him regarding the topic at hand is an example of such a parody:
Democrats Deny Having Pre-War Intelligence
(2005-11-11) -- Democrats in Congress today rejected President George Bush's accusation that they're trying to rewrite history, which shows they supported the Iraq war based on the same intelligence that drove his decision to send in the troops.
"We had no pre-war intelligence,"” said Sen. John Kerry, "History will show that none of the leading Democrats had substantial intelligence. Anyone who remembers what we did then knows that the president is making a baseless allegation. I think history will bear out my contention that we Democrats lacked the intelligence to make such an important decision." [...]
"Our troops deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war will remain firm in our conviction that we didn't know what we were doing at the time,"” Sen. Kerry said.
After all, what would happen if we won? Or to put it more precisely, what would happen if we stabilized the situation enough to stop the steady combat losses of Americans and enable the Iraqi polity and economy to move forward? (If you think that's unlikely, then consider this a useful thought experiment.)Instead, the Democrats are going out of their way to look stupid, naive, gullible, partisan, and incompetent. Bummer!
The answer is pretty obvious: Attention would quickly shift back to domestic issues. Since Bush has no remaining saleable domestic agenda to speak of--and hasn't, really, since the passage of his Medicare drug plan--Democrats would clearly have the advantage.