THE SPECTACULAR SIGHT of Saddam Hussein’s monuments to himself tumbling to the ground on Wednesday may have inspired jubilation among the Iraqi people, but among Democratic Party standard-bearers, it was greeted with a strange silence—if not outright dejection.
Judging by the reactions of the party’s leaders, one never would have guessed that the United States had just pulled off the most awesome victory in military history, capturing an entire country in three weeks with a minimum of coalition and civilian casualties, freeing 24 million people from a sadistic despot. There was nary an attaboy, a congratulations, or even an audible sigh of relief at the upper ranks of Democratic officialdom.
Not a peep was uttered by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Democrat and a staunch proponent of appeasement. Likewise, her Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Tom Daschle, had nothing to say about Iraq’s liberation and the images of Iraqi exuberance broadcast across the world, even though he had no problem spouting off about the war before it started.
Remember that? Daschle complained that he was "saddened that the president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we are now forced to war." Then surely he now must be "gladdened about how the president succeeded so masterfully at war craft," right?
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton kept quiet Wednesday, too—although she did find time in her busy schedule to issue a statement on the important subject of banning MTBE in gasoline. Her husband similarly neglected to offer a public word of congratulations—either to his successor or to the troops he once commanded—but did comment last week, while touring the Caribbean, that "we ought to let the United Nations decide the future" of Iraq. (This follows his February suggestion that "We should let [Hans] Blix lead us to come together.")
It was a quiet day on the Democratic side of the aisle on the U.S. Senate. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who in March derided the Administration for its "messianic zeal in favor of war," couldn’t bring himself to admit that America had, in fact, delivered political salvation to the people of Iraq. Ditto for fellow Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy, who, echoing the pre-World War II appeasement of his father, had earlier denounced Bush’s "rush to war."
It was the same story in the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives. The most notable interest in Gulf War II came from California’s Henry Waxman and Michigan’s John Dingell. But their concern for the liberation of Iraq was rather limited—they just want to make sure that Vice President Dick Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, plays no part in rebuilding it.
The only prominent Democrats willing to say anything supportive about America’s tremendous victory in Iraq were three of the party’s presidential candidates, who had the decency (or good political sense) to forthrightly support the war.
"I hope and pray this day, April 9, 2003, will forever be known as V-I day, victory in Iraq," said Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman—far and away the Democrats’ best when it comes to matters of national security. He was echoed by Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, who praised "our young men and women who are over there to liberate people and to try to bring a better day." North Carolina Senator John Edwards told a crowd in New Hampshire that the war "is the right thing to do."
Wartime waffler Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts—who infamously called for a "regime change" in the United States a week earlier—applauded the "extraordinary job" performed by American troops in Iraq, while carefully avoiding giving any credit to the administration that directed them. For Kerry, who has spent months criticizing a war he voted to authorize, it was about as much as could be expected.
Worse than the silence or waffling, though, was the utter disdain—in the face of heroic triumph—from the antiwar zealots among the Democratic presidential candidates. They seemed genuinely anguished by the day’s good news.
Vermont Governor Howard Dean remarked, "We’ve gotten rid of (Saddam Hussein), I suppose that’s a good thing" (emphasis added).
What does he suppose would be better?
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, seemingly unimpressed with America’s success, lamented that "We’re blowing up bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates, (but) we’re not building bridges in our own cities." Florida Sen. Bob Graham carried on with the old canard that "the war in Iraq has actually reduced our ability to effectively carry out the war against terrorism,"seemingly oblivious that several terrorists have been killed, and a terrorist training camp wiped out, thanks to the war he refused to back.
Then there’s racial agitator Al Sharpton: "I opposed the war and I’m still saying that I do not see the necessity for the war." Of course, he again demonstrated his utter void of credibility a week earlier when he boasted that he had received personal assurances from Iraq’s ambassador to the UN that the Iraqi government would "respect international law" and American POWs would "not be harmed."
But the quote of the day belonged to Illinois’ former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun: "If we spent $80 billion to kill Saddam Hussein that’s $79 billion too much." Spending for American national security, apparently, caps at $1 billion.
If the buildup to the war made Democrats look like an indecisive and petty bunch, the triumph has made matters even worse—exposing the isolation of the handful who were on the right side, the intellectual vacuity of those who couldn’t make up their mind at all, and the moral bankruptcy of those who would have seemingly preferred a different outcome.
No wonder party activists are hoping that Iraq will now just disappear. "The war itself really threatened to drive a wedge right through the middle of the party," Jim Jordan, campaign manager for John Kerry, told USA Today. "Now Democrats as a whole can turn and face other issues."
In other words, enough about all this War on Terror and national-security stuff; let’s talk MTBE.