Once more it came down to Ohio.
Nervous conservatives spent election night in 2004 anxiously watching the returns come in from the Buckeye State, where no Republican has ever captured the presidency without winning.
As John Kerry and George W. Bush divvied up the Electoral College, it was becoming clear Ohio would determine the winner of an election that would also determine what was becoming our increasingly controversial foreign policy—attempting to enact a preemptive regime change in Iraq.
Thankfully, a marriage amendment on the ballot in Ohio that received almost two-thirds of the popular vote drove up the conservative turnout as exit polls showed “moral values” was voters’ top concern.
Trending: Why Your State Should NOT Legalize Weed
And the country was spared a Kerry presidency.
However, soon concerns about the country’s moral decline would give way to concerns about the nature, purpose, and vision of our mission in Iraq. The occupation became more difficult and treacherous than the invasion.
Fast forward just two years later and Republicans were annihilated in the 2006 midterms. Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House, and Harry Reid Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.
Two years after that, an upstart U.S. Senator named Barack Obama used his opposition to the war in Iraq to mobilize the Democrat base to oppose the assumed nomination of pro-Iraq War Hillary Clinton as the party’s next presidential nominee.
Then Obama rode a wave of anti-Bush sentiment in the country, evidenced by Bush’s paltry 29% approval rating, all the way to the White House.
Of course, the liberal media did everything it could to marginalize the mission in Iraq. Of course, the liberal media did everything it could to discredit Bush as commander-in-chief. Of course they unloaded their gotcha questions each day at the White House press briefing.
Except liberal media manipulation/spin has been a given reality in American politics for decades. Just as it was a given in 2000 and 2004 when Bush won as well. It is no excuse for not having a winning message, or a capable messenger—especially in matters of life and death.
What is required is a leader capable of confronting that reality that is still able to get his message out to the masses. Something Bush could not do once the reservoir of good will he had built up post-9/11 was exhausted. He simply couldn’t commandeer a strong enough bully pulpit to defeat the narrative.
And the country has been paying a high price for it ever since.
Now, a decade later, the country is at a tipping point. A record 93 million people are out of work, which is more people than live in all but 15 nations on earth. More people on food stamps than the total population of Spain. Record debt, and that’s not even counting $130 trillion in unfunded mandates and liabilities.
Unprecedented assault on civil liberties and religious freedom plus Obamacare. A frayed relationship with Israel, our most strategically important ally.
Islamic radicalism is on the march in the Middle East with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State, which now controls most of Syria and just captured Ramadi in Iraq. Polls routinely show between 70-80% of the American people think the country is on the wrong track.
And an argument could certainly be made this all happened because our standard-bearer was unable to make a credible and capable defense of attempting to enact regime change in Iraq.
Now, a decade later, and I worry history could be repeating itself. I understand the nefarious motivations behind the liberal media cornering 2016 GOP presidential candidates with the question: “knowing what we know now, do you think it was a good idea to invade Iraq?”
Of course, Obama’s ham-fisted Iraqi withdrawal opened the door for the Islamic State. I acknowledge there is only one candidate in this race who voted to invade Iraq, and also supported helping the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya and Egypt.
Her name is Hillary Clinton.
However, just because the motivations of the questioners are questionable, doesn’t always mean the question lacks merit.
These GOP candidates are running for the job of next commander-in-chief, so absolutely how they analyze the sequence of events that got us into this mess we’re in – both foreign and domestic – is fair game. The American people have every right to know how a potential Republican president would answer that question, since Iraq is once again front-and-center in our foreign policy thanks to Islamic State incursions there.
I can’t imagine why every single conservative reading this isn’t interested in finding out who in this presidential primary is up to the task of crafting and articulating a cogent, moral, and successful foreign policy in the face of the liberal media onslaught? This is a test drive for the reality they’d face daily as president. And if they can’t handle it thousands upon thousands of lives can be lost. Not just our soldiers but also innocent people caught in the crosshairs.
I’m all for not playing the liberal media’s game, and turning it around on them at every opportunity.
But that is not a substitute for substantive policy discussion on matters of life and death or war and peace.
If we don’t have a champion capable of providing that when the heat is on, it won’t just be our standing in the world that will suffer.
The decade we just lost proves we will surrender substantial policy ground here at home, too.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.