House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has assembled a kitchen cabinet of fellow moderate Members to shape the Democratic strategy on national security issues and battle perceptions that the party is weak on defense.
Today the group, which includes 14 Members who sit on key committees, will lay out a multitiered Democratic “national security strategy,” designed to provide a broad-reaching message and policy vision they hope the party, candidates and their colleagues will embrace.
“I thought it was important to get together a group of Democrats, particularly those involved in defense and security issues, to articulate a vision for our party on national security issues,” Hoyer said.
“We want to make sure Americans know that we are absolutely committed and believe it is our responsibility to keep our country safe and our people safe.”
As part of that, the group will outline Democratic ideas for winning the war in Iraq, defeating terrorism at home and abroad, preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction, strengthening the U.S. military and intelligence capabilities, improving global alliances, bolstering post-conflict reconstruction capabilities and reforming the United Nations.
They also will lay out plans to develop a strategy for energy independence and to overcome record debt and deficits to ensure the country is fiscally sound and prepared for national security challenges.
“I think this will be another contribution to convincing the American people that Democrats are the party they can trust to keep our nation safe and free,” Hoyer said. “We want to contribute to the confidence of the American people that the Democratic Party understands that responsibility just as we have exercised that responsibility.”
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Intelligence Committee and part of the Hoyer effort, said Democrats have a long-standing tradition of leading visionaries on protecting the homeland, and today’s document is a reminder of that. She called it the “beginning of a complete presentation” on the major issues affecting homeland security and defense.
“It’s important to do in policy terms,” she said. “The positions are the right positions for the country.”
The rollout of the defense blueprint by Hoyer and his team comes just as some of the Caucus’ left-leaning Democrats are becoming ever more vocal about their opposition to the war in Iraq and heightening their call to bring U.S. forces home. Some of those Members will participate in an ad hoc hearing today to discuss ways to end the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. A coalition of liberal groups, meanwhile, will hold a major rally advocating troop withdrawal just across town.
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who advised Hoyer and his group in the drafting of their vision document, said in an interview that the Hoyer blueprint should be “viewed as part of the broad debate within the party” and shows that there are “a lot of Democrats who are serious about national security issues and are aware that the country has a lot of citizens” who are similarly concerned about those issues.
The challenge, O’Hanlon said, lies in whether the party will raise its own awareness on these matters heading into future elections, and whether it can communicate such a political vision in a news environment now focused on Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq.
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