Do the Democrats really need an alternative to the Bush “stay-the-course” policy in Iraq? The Republicans think so. I’ve thought so. But the reality is even if both houses turn Democratic, there is little the Democrats can do to effect change in Iraq. Given this administration’s view that it has extraordinary powers to conduct war without Congressional approval, challenging its authority in court would run the remainder of the Bush’s tenure and then, we hope, become moot. So we’re stuck with Bush’s belligerent ideology for another 2-1/2 years.

In a strategy memo by the progressive web site MyDD and the non-partisan 527 group Courage Campaign, they suggest that simply running against Bush’s policy is not only a winning strategy but an intellectually honest one. The groups say that polling conducted in the aftermath of the special election in California’s 50th district between Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray, reveals that Bush’s failures resonate with the public.

– 63% of Republican voters believe that Bush has made some or a lot of mistakes in Iraq.
– 34% of Republican voters believe that Bush has definitely or probably not told the truth
about the situation in Iraq.
– 34% of Republican voters believe that Bush should probably or definitely be held
accountable for the situation in Iraq.
– 40% of Republican voters believe that the Democratic Party is more likely to hold Bush
accountable for mistakes in Iraq

Holding Bush accountable, something that rarely has been done in connection with many of his failures in life, trumps offering an alternative, including a withdrawal plan.

While the country is open to the idea of partial or total troop withdrawal, according to our
data in CA-50 existing withdrawal messaging loses badly to Republican ‘cut and run’
counter-attack messaging. This suggests that voters are seeking a set of actors in
Congress who will tell the truth about the war and hold Bush accountable for mistakes.
This is in contrast to an immediate end to the conflict and /or yet another withdrawal plan
that Congress cannot enact. Voters intuitively understand that Congress doesn’t run the
military, and that regardless of the outcome of the 2006 election, Bush will be in charge
of the military until 2009. (emphasis added)
As such, framing the election as a choice between rival Congressional military plans sacrifices the credibility of Democratic candidates who can only legitimately promise to hold hearings, restore congressional oversight of military matters, locate and identify blame, and serve as a check on a widely disliked and distrusted President. (emphasis original)

As the memo states, the debate over Bush’s competency is over. Even I’m beginning to feel sorry for the guy. Not as sorry as I feel for the country that has endured the most inept administration in the country’s history, but clearly his reputation is shattered, never to recover in our lifetime. But for larger reasons, he must be held accountable: Accountability is fast becoming a lost concept in this country, where corporate executives plunder companies too often without consequence, public figures spew hate only to recover after public mea culpas and entertainment concerns reap profits by producing misogynist music while hiding behind the first amendment.

Republicans will holler that “we can’t play the blame game,” but accountability may just be a conservative concept that Democrats can win on.