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Jewish World Review May 13, 2004 / 22 Iyar, 5764

James Lileks

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America likes Rumsfeld, and the Dems can't take it


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Some people saw the photos of Iraqi bandits stacked in a pyramid and winced: This was bad, but it would pass. Certain senators saw the pyramid and couldn't help but climb up on the bodies and wave for the cameras.


Sen. Joe Biden, whose self-assurance is matched only by the lack of evidence for same, made an early bid for political advantage by calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. It was a remarkably tone-deaf attack.


America likes Rumsfeld. He's the flinty, cranky National Dad. He's the sort of fellow you want to grill the steaks. Or reform the Pentagon. Or both, while fighting two wars.


Rumsfeld has managed to spend his career inside the Beltway without succumbing to its institutional inertia; he's the anti-boomer. Absent a memo that says, "Hook them up to Diehards and make 'em dance. Love, Rummy," most folks are inclined to let him stay on the job. Particularly if the alternative is Joe Biden.


But Biden also reminded us where his party stands today: looking backwards.

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"What did he know," Biden said of Rumsfeld, "and when did he know it?" Ah, the old magic incantation. The litany of the left, sacred syllables that will conjure up the Hallowed '70s, when the forces of Good toppled the hated Nixon. The era when America was reviled abroad, militarily impotent, sunk in despair at home, desperate for a peanut farmer to save it. You know, the good old days.


Why ask for Rumsfeld's head? Because it would give Democrats political advantage in the war against terror. And by "terror" we mean a second Bush term, which terrifies the Democrats more than any plan hatched in an Afghan cave.


That's why the Democrats now seem willing to shiv anyone for transient political advantage, including the entire U.S. military. Taking a page from John Kerry's wholesale smear of the Vietnam-era military -- everyone except Al Gore came back from his tour with ears on a string, don't you know -- Sen. Carl Levin now blames the prisoner abuses on "systemic" aberrations in the military.


So we're not talking about a few bad apples anymore. "Systemic" means "affecting the body as a whole." From the joint chiefs to Pat Tillman, the taint is broad and deep.


One wonders if men like Levin feel a sense of freedom when they make these accusations -- this is how they probably regarded the military before this scandal broke, and now they can openly vent their distaste. How the days after Sept. 11 must have rankled such men; they foresaw that people might now admire soldiers more than senators.


Has this changed? Not for most of America. But this lesson hasn't penetrated the skulls of some Beltway solons.


Hence Biden, hence Levin. Hence the spectacle of flyweight Sen. Mark Dayton, jabbering incoherent accusations against Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, insisting that their plans to increase the number of tanks in Iraq will radicalize the planet's Muslim population. (If that's what he meant; Dayton's inability to construct an argument is matched only by his inability to deliver it.)


And then there's this gem from the Senate floor:


"The day Saddam was captured, President Bush said that `for the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and secret police are gone forever.' On March 19, 2004 President Bush asked, `Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?' Shamefully we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management."


There's a Latin phrase: Res ipsa loquitor. The thing speaks for itself.


But this thing speaks for the Democratic Party. These aren't the words of some intemperate first-term junior congressperson throwing fireballs from the back bench; these are the words of Sen. Ted Kennedy.


This is the man who's been stumping for Kerry since his fellow senator wrapped up the nomination. This is the grand vizier of the Democratic Party. And he finds no significant difference between Saddam's institutionalized terror and the actions of a few bad soldiers. From your mouth to al-Jazeera's ear, Senator.


Oh, for the days of a loyal opposition.


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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

Up

05/07/04: Kerry Supporters Have a New Take on Vietnam War
05/05/04: New cell phone does everything, but there's a problem...
04/29/04: John Kerry, prisoner of symbolic politics
04/22/04: Shall we grovel? Kerry Plan to Restore America's Place in the World
04/08/04: Sept. 11 Might Have Been Different If ...
04/02/04: Slinging slime or citing facts?
03/26/04: One War, One Enemy
03/22/04: Bloodied Spain Rejoins Old Europe
03/12/04: Why All Those Foreign Leaders Want Kerry to Whup Bush
03/08/04: Introducing the Kerry Doctrine
02/27/04: Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs
02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks