- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

Senate Democrats have mapped a political battle plan for the March congressional recess that calls on lawmakers to stage press events with active duty military personnel, veterans and emergency responders to bash President Bush on virtually every one of his national security policies.

The game plan, devised by the office of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is contained in a six-page memo distributed to Democratic senators on Thursday at a closed-door meeting at the Capitol and provided to The Washington Times by a congressional staffer.

Titled “Real Security,” the political document calls for staged town hall events at military bases, weapons factories, National Guard units, fire stations and veterans posts.

“Ensure that you have the proper U.S. and state flags at the event, and consider finding someone to sing the national anthem and lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the event,” the battle plan states.

However, the Defense Department prohibits political events on military bases. The rule states, “commanders will not permit the use of installation facilities by any candidate for political campaign or election events, including public assemblies or town hall meetings. …”

Jim Manley, Mr. Reid’s spokesman, said yesterday the planned events are not part of a political campaign. They would involve only incumbent Democratic senators, some of whom are up for re-election, but not Democratic Senate challengers, he said. Democrats hope to capture Senate control in November’s election.

“These are events to highlight the need for increased funding for the troops,” Mr. Manley said. “It’s an effort to paint the White House and the Republican Congress as having a failed effort on national security issues, which is a direct result of their misplaced priorities and mismanagement.”

The Senate plan urges holding town hall events to “draw attention to the security vulnerabilities caused by the Bush budget and explain how Democrats fought to restore programs that keep America safe.”

The plan is the latest attempt by Democrats to criticize Mr. Bush on national security issues in the aftermath of the Dubai ports deal dust-up, which Republicans conceded was mishandled by the administration. One of the few areas where Republicans continue to poll well versus Democrats is on fighting terrorists.

In almost every issue in the Reid memo, Democratic lawmakers are called upon to criticize the president for not spending enough federal dollars.

The plan urges the lawmakers to:

• “Hold a town hall meeting with state officials and a local National Guard unit at their armory to discuss the security impact of long deployments. … Ask National Guard members to offer input on how security and disaster response at home is compromised by long deployments.”

• “Hold a town hall meeting with troops at a local military installation. … When selecting a location at the military installation for the event, make sure to select a space that allows easy press access and clearly conveys the message in the shot. Planes, vehicles, equipment and signage in the background enhance the pictures coming out of your event.”

• “Work with [veterans] organizations … to find recently returned Iraq and Afghanistan veterans willing to discuss the mental effects they or their fellow veterans have experienced.”

• “Tour a factory in your state that manufactures military equipment like Humvees or body armor and hold a press availability afterwards with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on the importance of protective equipment.”

• “Visit the home of a military family that has purchased body armor on their own for a family member serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and hold an open press ‘conversion’ on the issue. … Ask the family if they would be willing to hold the open press conversation/town hall meeting in their yard, on their front porch or in their home.”

As commander in chief, Mr. Bush has made frequent visits to military bases in the United States and abroad. His remarks are generally limited to explaining his war policies and encouraging the troops.

The Democratic memo calls on senators to seek the help of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), which is critical of Mr. Bush.

The IAVA political action committee has raised for $100,000 for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans running for the House. It has endorsed all seven Democrats in that category who are running against House Republicans. An IAVA PAC spokesman said Republican candidates chose not to seek the group’s endorsement.

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