Jewish World Review Oct. 10, 2002 / 4 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | In their vileness, there is a kind of integrity in Reps. James McDermott (D-Wash) and David Bonior (D-Mich) that many of their Democratic colleagues lack. In an interview broadcast from Baghdad, McDermott said Saddam Hussein can be trusted, and President Bush cannot.
Bonior and McDermott represent a fringe opinion in the Democratic Party. But it's a large fringe, which probably explains why so few of their Democratic colleagues have uttered a word of criticism. Their silence may be more despicable than the seditious noises coming from the mouths of Bonior and McDermott, which at least have about them the ring of honest conviction. Honest conviction has been conspicuously absent from the pronouncements on Iraq by former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), the Washington Post noted in an editorial Oct. 2.
"One striking feature of the criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy is the absence of suggested alternatives," the Washington Post said. "These leading Democrats argued the President should do exactly what he is doing...only not now, or not so fast."
With a few honorable exceptions, Democrats have treated the most important issue of our time as an unwarranted intrusion into their midterm election strategy. War and peace may be important. But not as important as electing Democrats to Congress.
Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn) was the Senate's most outspoken dove in 1991, tirelessly crusading against war with Iraq. This year, he has been so silent on the subject that antiwar protestors held a sit-in in his office in St. Paul.
Wellstone in his silence could be more true to his principles than other Democrats in tight races. Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga) is running ads proclaiming he "supports President Bush on Iraq." Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo), proclaims in one of her ads: "I voted for President Bush's defense budget."
Cleland, who was severely injured while serving in Vietnam, probably means it. Carnahan gives the impression of being hawkish on defense without actually taking a position on the critical issue.
The unwillingness of Democrats to stand up and be counted on Iraq, one way or the other, reached ludicrous proportions when Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) tried to postpone a vote on a resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq until after the election. It is astounding that a leader in a democracy would assert that voters should go to the polls without knowing where their representatives stand on the most important issue facing the country.
Bonior and McDermott inadvertently did their nation a service. The adverse publicity their trip generated probably forced House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo) to declare earlier and more forcefully where he stands. Gephardt was among the beaming faces in a large, bipartisan group at the White House Wednesday to endorse the resolution the president favors on Iraq. Gephardt's presence guarantees the vote in the House will be prompt, and overwhelming.
Gephardt's stand puts heat on Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), whose own position on war with Iraq is difficult to determine from his weasel words to date. Daschle voted against the first Gulf War, but voted for a resolution in 1998 authorizing President Clinton to take military action against Saddam. No one has yet asked Tiny Tom why he thinks Saddam is less dangerous now than he was four years ago. Someone should.
For someone who puts political considerations above all else, Daschle has dug his party a hole, and it's too late now to put the shovel aside.
Democrats could not prevent Iraq from being the number one concern on voters' minds. But had Democrats embraced a month ago the resolution Gephardt endorsed Wednesday, they could have kept Iraq from being a partisan issue. Now, if Daschle winds up voting for the resolution, he'll look spineless. If he votes against it, Republicans can take it to the bank.
What to do about Iraq is the most important issue this fall. But the subtext is: Can a political party which puts pursuit of power above all else be trusted with power?
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10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war