Target-rich environment is a term that describes a combat situation in which a militarily superior force is presented with a large number of highly desirable, poorly defended high-value targets all at once. In politics, it’s a situation in which a political party, believing it has the superior position, is presented with many things its opposition says or does that are exploitable all at once.
Democrats have been on the defensive for most of the past year, as Republicans and Tea Party people have attacked the many targets presented to them. But once Obamacare became law, Democrats believed they finally found their target-rich environment and were positioned to take advantage of it.
There were those “insurgent” Tea Party protesters on March 20 outside the Capitol building shouting “kill the bill” and those who allegedly used the “N” word and spat on African American Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).
Leading Democrats, and their heavy artillery in the mainstream media, decried them as “racist” and bombarded the public with accusations they were like those who opposed the civil-rights movement. Never mind that the march from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to the Capitol Building across the street was staged to set up an ambush in front of cameras Democrats could use as pretext for an attack on protesters.
Then there were Sarah Palin’s “reload” metaphor and the map posted on her facebook page of 20 members of Congress Republicans are “targeting” for defeat in the November election. A crosshair appeared over each of their congressional districts. In the context of the usual threatening phone calls to members of Congress and occasional property damage to their offices in the wake of unpopular legislation by people on the left and right fringe, Democrats accused her of incendiary language and symbols that were likely to incite violence.
If this and other statements by Republicans and Tea Party people didn’t provide Democrats with enough targets, the Republican National Committee (RNC) contributed more. There was the RNC’s reimbursement of a $2,000 expense at a bondage-themed night club for contributors after a fund raising event and an RNC mailer mimicking a census form that mistakenly included a phone number of phone-sex service.
Republicans fired back. They accused Democrats and the media of using attacks on Republicans and Tea Partiers as a diversion from the unpopular healthcare reform bill, the Obama administration’s inability to do much about jobs and the economy, and the growing expansion of government in the lives of Americans. The withering fire from Democrat shock troops along with artillery and air support from the media, however, had Republicans on the defensive.
Political wars, like real ones, have their ebb and flow. Even a numerically superior force can have its advance halted by unforeseen events or by a clever enemy. Before Democrats take too much comfort in the current situation, however, they should take stock of their own vulnerable targets and the forces arrayed against them. Republicans, if they keep their cool, are far more likely than Democrats to find themselves in a target-rich environment in the months leading up to the November mid-term elections.
Pundits on radio and cable TV talk shows speculate about how the passage of Obamacare will affect the upcoming congressional and state elections. Democrats and Republicans agree that Republicans will gain seats in the House and the Senate. It’s a common historical trend in mid-term elections, and Democrats in the House from predominantly Republican districts, like the Palin 20, are vulnerable.
Republicans are aiming at a repeat of the 1994 elections when they recaptured the House and Senate. Democrats believe they can limit Republican gains by touting the benefits of Obamacare and because they think the Tea Party movement will run out of energy and political ammunition. But while Democrats were on the warpath last week, whooping and hollering around circled Fox News vans, Americans kept hearing more bad news about Obamacare.
Major corporations across the country declared billions in charges against profits, as required by law, because of their loss of the deduction for a Medicare prescription drug benefit provided to their retirees. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, and the head of President George W. Bush’s council of economic advisers, says “the tax changes will burden the American economy’s ability to create jobs.”
Other revelations include a budget-busting federal insurance program for long-term healthcare for the elderly, all the new Obamacare regulations (currently being written), boards, and panels, and billions in unfunded mandates on the States.
One-by-one, over the next seven months more provisions of the 2,700-plus page healthcare reform bill will explode like land mines on the public consciousness. The embers from the fires they ignite will be more than enough to keep the Tea Party kettle boiling over troop campfires at rallies across the country, keeping them fired up and ready for political combat. On November 2, they will launch an all-out election offensive that could change the balance of power.
Along the way, as in every war, there likely will be a few soldiers, local citizens, and hoodlums who, acting on their own biases and prejudices, will say things and commit acts that violate the rules of American political combat and criminal laws. They should be dealt with appropriately. The use of military metaphors, however, is not beyond the pale. As Prussian soldier and military historian Carl Von Clausewitz phrased it, “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.” The terminology of war and politics are inseparable, very American, and, therefore, quite appropriate.
Ed Ross is the President and Chief Executive Officer of EWRoss International LLC, a company that provides global consulting services to clients in the international defense marketplace. He publishes commentary at EWRoss.com.