Dry Spell

In a long and rambling New Yorker piece comparing Joe Biden to John Kerry, writer Jeffrey Goldberg says,

Most national-security Democrats believe that the Party’s problems on the issue go deeper than marketing. They agree that the Party should be more open to the idea of military action, and even preëmption; and although they did not agree about the timing of the Iraq war and the manner in which Bush launched it, they believe that the stated rationale—Saddam’s brutality and his flouting of United Nations resolutions—was ideologically and morally sound. They say that the absence of weapons of mass destruction was more a failure of intelligence than a matter of outright deception by the Administration; and although they do not share the neoconservatives’ enthusiastic belief in the transformative power of military force, they accept the possibility that the invasion of Iraq might lead to the establishment of democratic institutions there.

The problem for these “national security Democrats” is, of course, that they can’t really say any of those things in public. If they did, they’d lose the MooreOn Left, as illustrated in the article by many extremely stupid quotes from Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, and MoveOn yahoo Eli Pariser.

That’s the Democratic Party dilemma. The office holders who are intellectually honest enough to view the terrorist and Islamofascist threat with some degree of objectivity (or even those who’d just like to look tougher for political reasons) can’t break away from the blame-America Left, even rhetorically. They’d lose too many dollars and too many votes–just ask Joe Lieberman, who’s also quoted in the New Yorker piece.

I don’t know how (or if) they can get out of that particular Catch-22, but using recent history as a comparison, I’m guessing the Democrats may have to wait for a general and widely-accepted peace to prevail before they’re trusted with Presidential power again. That worked for Clinton in the wake of the Cold War (I doubt that he would have been elected had the Soviets still been around), but as in the case of that long conflict, it may be a very long time before there’s another national concensus regarding war and peace.


19 Responses to “Dry Spell”

  1. Cupie Says:

    Ojectivity is great, but military action in response to a terrorist threat/action is the way to. At least this MooreOn liberal believes just that. I think you underestimate liberal reasoning or maybe I’m more red state then I thought, which kinda frightens me. 😉

  2. Will Collier Says:

    In retrospect, I think I should have used “seriousness” instead of “objectivity.” But now that somebody has noticed it’d be cheesy to go back and change it…

  3. rosignol Says:

    … it may be a very long time before there’s another national concensus regarding war and peace.

    Dunno about that, a WMD attack would create a national consensus pretty much overnight. But it wouldn’t be a consensus that favored the positions of the Move-on/International ANSWER/Not-in-my-name types.

  4. DRB Says:

    Good analysis — but I would note that the Democrat Clinton did not hesitate to use the armed forces to achieve America’s foreign policy goals and he also did not hesitate to attack without UN sanction. Which is one of the reasons I liked him and one of the reasons I also like George Bush.

    Clinton’s problem was that his willingness to use the armed forces was not matched by an equal willingness to stay the course once they were committed. I’d like to think that if his wife is elected in ’08 she’d have the spine to stick it out where he did not.

  5. BLT in CO Says:

    Will, you make a great point. To agree with anything even remotely close to a Bush position is to invite an attack from a portion of the ‘base’, as it were. So the MoveOn left is holding the entire party hostage. In effect, Eli Pariser was right when he claimed he’d bought and paid for the Democratic party; his far-left viewpoint is the only one allowed to be voiced.

    And that’s a shame, really, since the Democrats have some reasonable and good ideas. But until the spewage from the far left is replaced by sanity and moderation, they’ll continue to lose and their good ideas continue to be hidden under the mountain of anti-Americanism and anti-Bushism that pervades Eli’s ilk.

  6. Tim P Says:

    Rosignol and DRB hit the nail on the head.
    Furthermore the democrats have a serious problem, which may lead to a split in the party because the MooreOn’s extreme left positions have put the democrats in an untenable position vis a vis the rest of America.

  7. MarkD Says:

    the Dems have two options:

    (1) Hillary Clinton has been trying some more hawkish rhetoric lately with very little backlash from the Moore-ons in the base. Something about the name Clinton either convinces the left that they don’t really mean it or that they can’t say anything about it anyway.

    (2) wait. 2008 is a long time from now. If nothing bad happens then, middle America will start taking security for granted again just as they did in ’92 and it will again be about promises the most goodies, and Dems have always been better than Republicans at that. Plus eventually there will be a real recession, rather than the phony one the press reported trying to stop W’s re-election and if it hits at the wrong time, the Democratic candidate will have no problem getting the extra 150k votes in Ohio plus carry all the states The Manchurian Candidate got in ’04.

  8. John Branch Says:

    I think you have to be careful stereotyping all Democrats, though. While a majority of them don’t support the war, that’s very different from the ANSWER crowd.

    It kind of the same thing that the Dems do when they think all Republicans are Christian Coalition Bible thumpers who want to take evolution out of schools and put women back in front of the oven.

    Both are inaccurate for a majority of the parties. ANSWER doesn’t represent the Dems anymore than Promise Keepers represents the Reps.

  9. aaron Says:

    I think part of why Kerry did so badly was that people picked up on his weakness in strategic thinking.

  10. DaveP. Says:

    John: Until we see any number (or any at all) of Democratic policy-makers publicly driving ANSWER/MOVE ON (and all of their lovely lovely fundraising and free vote-registering) out of the temple, I think we can say very clearly that the Democratic party does INDEED agree with and support them.

    If the majority of Democrats do not indeed agree with their party’s linkage to ANSWER and MOVEON, let them tell the party leadership to change… and maybe the rest of America will believe them.

  11. DaveP. Says:

    Update: Barbara Boxer and Richard Byrd appear at MoveOn rally March 16; in language reminiscent of Trent Lott’s comemnts about ex-Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond, Boxer refers to Klansman Byrd as “the love of my life”.
    Will the national Democratic Party have any words for Ms. Boxer, or indeed Mr. Byrd?
    Other than approval, that is.

    Also present: Hillary Clinton, Pat Leahy, Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer.

  12. Matt Says:

    I can’t speak with anything like authority about the nationwide majority of Democrats…but the Democrats I’m in touch with are uniformly sympathetic to the MooreOn/ANSWER rhetoric. The party’s internal activists (ie, the folks who show up to vote in primaries) listen to those folks, even if the majority of Democrat-leaning general election voters don’t.

    It’s no surprise that moderate Democrats would be afraid of them.

    Of course, it’ll be a cold day in Hell before _I_ vote for a Democrat again, but it’s not like I want to get in bed with the Republicans either. With luck, the Democratic party will die soon, the Republican coalition will fragment in the aftermath, and we’ll end up with two moderately reasonable parties.

  13. Mark C Reardon Says:

    The more I see this insane drift to the fringe in the Democratic party, the more I am convinced that there will be a new party emerge. Just as the Whigs dissolved and the Republicans filled the void, I think the same will happen to the Dems.
    Admittedly, there was a great MORAL conumdrum that the Whigs would not face that became the impetus for the new party. Can centrist dems find some compelling moral grounds to shun the extremists and emerge unburdened by the whacko past?
    If they can, I think it will cause a major re-shuffling of the political climate.

  14. rosignol Says:

    With luck, the Democratic party will die soon, the Republican coalition will fragment in the aftermath, and we’ll end up with two moderately reasonable parties.

    That’s what I think is going to happen, in the long run. The thing that’s keeping the factions of the Republican party hanging together is the competition from the Democrats- it doesn’t matter if they’re a social conservative, christian right, or neocon, none of them want the Democrats calling the shots until the fight is won.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats are trying to figure out how to regain their credibility on security & defense matters without losing the MoveOn&company votes. I don’t see a way to do it- the MoveOn&Co position is that the use of force to advance the interests of the US is always wrong.

    That position might be ignored during peacetime, but not when there’s a war going on. The Clintons know this, and both Bill and Hillary have been conspicuously supportive of the war, despite the MoveOn&Co crowd.

    …it’s a really sad day for the Democrats when Hillary Clinton is their best chance to regain credibility on national security. That she’s also a candidate that garuntees massive Republican turnout is politely not mentioned… but a lot of people who wouldn’t vote (R) in 2008 because of unhappiness with Bush’s fiscal policies will go to the polls to keep Bill from getting back into the White House.

  15. Clint Lovell Says:

    We shouldn’t spend so much time on this issue as our house is definitely in need of a “spring cleaning”.

    It has become apparent that the Bush Agenda may not be self-fulfilling indefinitely, so resting on the old laurels is a sure way of opening the door to another round of economic misery and home and humanitarian suffering globally.

    The job isn’t done. It isn’t even half done yet. This week’s media circus on everything from steroids to the right to die case only illustrate the magnitude of the folly those in Washington are willing to engage in while our President is sitting there with his proverbial “tookus hanging in the breeze”.

    The biggest national security danger of our time isn’t Terri Schiavo, nor is it Iraq. Some might say that North Korea or China or Iran are the biggest threat we face.

    That’s the conventional wisdom. And like most things it’s an exercise in sophistry. Makes sense on the surface, but when we look beneath the surface things get much more complicated and what seems like the threat really isn’t as big as some others we face.

    To fight Iran and China and North Korea we need weapons and a military second to none in every aspect of the term.

    Guess what the Europeans know that you don’t seem to get? Arms, men, machines, beans and bullets all cost a lot of money. If we are to be able to fight these coming wars (and come they shall) we need to have the money to pay for it because freedom (as sure as God made little green apples) isn’t free.

    This is the pragmatist’s viewpoint and maybe we should consider the message as it may provide beneficial to the wise among us some day.

    The most challenging issue facing our national security today is our domestic economy. We are facing some challenges that could well turn our immigration problem into a southbound exodus because we haven’t done the heavy lifting we must do if we are to pass something along to our prodigy that isn’t a total disaster.

    The dollar is falling. It’s falling because the world is losing faith in our ability to manage our financial affairs. We may be the world’s largest economy but we are also the world’s largest debtor and that places us at a distinct disadvantage.

    How are we to fight the wars of freedom and national survival in the future if we are broke and can’t buy arms, pay brave patriots to fight, and then transport and support them to foreign lands where we are at an even greater disadvantage?

    No. Leave the Democrats to their own conundrums. We have to get on with the business at hand and we don’t have the luxury of spare time to gloat over their stupidity…

  16. Chris Says:

    “I can’t speak with anything like authority about the nationwide majority of Democrats…but the Democrats I’m in touch with are uniformly sympathetic to the MooreOn/ANSWER rhetoric. The party’s internal activists (ie, the folks who show up to vote in primaries) listen to those folks, even if the majority of Democrat-leaning general election voters don’t.”

    I can just as easily say the same:

    “I can’t speak with anything like authority about the nationwide majority of Republicans…but the Republicans I’m in touch with are uniformly sympathetic to the Club for Growth/Focus on the Family rhetoric. The party’s internal activists (ie, the folks who show up to vote in primaries) listen to those folks, even if the majority of Republican-leaning general election voters don’t.”

    Are you really, truly, and seriously under the impression that only the left has a radical base that they’re beholden to? What’s more, I’d argue there’s a much better argument to be made that the radical right has much more influence on their party than the radical left does on theirs: for every moderately influential Barbra Boxer there’s a Rick Santorum, but Bush, Cheney, DeLay and Hastert are all top leaders and fairly far to the right – outside of Howard Dean, what major Democratic figures are that far to the left?

  17. DaveP. Says:

    Chris: Are you seriously trying to claim that hanging around with people who oppose abortion is ethically similar to sharing podium space with professional propagandists whose products are sued by terrorist gorups as indoctrination material? Or speaking at rallies where contempt for the United States is shown by burning American flags and voicing hopes that America will “lose the war” and suffer more terrorist attacks, with heavy loss of life? Do you believe there is ANY similarity between Focus on the Family’s attempts to “child-safe” broadcast television and ANSWER/MOVEON’s attempts to cripple American foreign policy- and that the DNC’s acceptance of millions of ‘soft’ money from George Soros- a foreign national with connections to the Russian Mafia- to influence the American political process is somehow patriotic?

    If so, than you probably voted for Kerry. And you STILL don’t get it.

  18. Chris Says:


    This is my point exactly: you talk up Focus on the Family’s laudable aspects, and harp on the bad points of groups like MoveOn.org to the point where you purposefully blur the line between them and communist organizations.

    (Yes, I am aware that some of the same people fund ANSWER and MoveOn.org… although not exclusively so. Moreover, funding questions are not a phenomenon limited to the left – do you really want to get in to what Richard Mellon Scaife funds?)

    Meanwhile, I can go on at equally great length about the bad points of the organizations I mentioned earlier: how Grover Norquist called WW2 “unjust” and how he dreams of wanting to kill government like a baby in a bathtub, and how guys like James Dobson are pushing for an environment where even blogs and cable television can be censored in the name of making them “family safe”. Meanwhile, most liberals I know thought MoveOn.org’s commercial campaigns were good stuff (and let’s avoid the whole “MoveOn called Bush the same as Hitler!” canard, please) and were just happy to see somebody addressing some of the issues Moore brought up, even if some of his rhetorical tricks were fairly distasteful. (Yes, I thought the bit about happy smiling Iraqis before the war was nauseating myself.)

    My point is not that the left is perfect and pure, and that the right is a sea of crazed wingnuts: both sides have their radicals, and have problems dealing with them. But I think it’s fairly dishonest to portray all Democrats as, at best, impotent pawns of the radical left, while ignoring the same questions about the right.

    And I can make that point without frothing at the mouth over the idiocy of the other side and making straw-man attacks on people I barely know, thanks very much.

  19. Crank Says:

    To be fair to Goldberg, it is only appropriate that an article comparing Joe Biden to John Kerry should be long and rambling.

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