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Rockefeller's Moment of Truth By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Occasionally, Washington insiders make a major mistake: they express themselves clearly. Jay Rockefeller committed this cardinal sin in an interview published Tuesday in The Charleston (WV) Gazette:

McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they [missiles] get to the ground?  He doesn’t know. You have to care about the lives of people [to be president]. McCain never gets into those issues.

When his audacious rant became public, the Mountaineer State’s junior senator issued an apology, after a sort: “I made an inaccurate and wrong analogy, and I have extended my sincere apology to him…I regret my very poor choice of words.” Rockefeller reacted as though he had made a mere personal affront to John McCain and done poorly on a certain section of the SATs. (Expressing its typical moral idiocy, the Nation ran a column demanding that McCain prove he had, indeed, thought of his targets as a pilot.)

A personal apology to Senator McCain is appallingly insufficient. In his desire to score political points against the rival party, Jay Rockefeller denigrated every American serviceman and woman who has not lingered on the deaths of Nazis, Communists, or terrorists he or she may have killed while doing this country’s bidding. By his logic, nearly all American soldiers do not “care about the lives of people.” For such an outrage, Sen. Rockefeller should apologize to all American servicemen.

Rockefeller’s statement is damning for two reasons. For one, it reminds voters of John Kerry’s campaign promise to wage a “more sensitive War on Terror.” In the Left’s paradigm, the only good soldiers are those who “feel the pain” of their targets.

Worse, the senator’s words are damning because they are another example of leftist Democrats’ demonizing our own troops for political gain. David Horowitz and I painstakingly chronicle the Left’s craven decision to excoriate American troops they voted to send into battle in our new book Party of Defeat. Although the elite media have studiously overlooked the connection, Rockefeller’s words clearly echoed Dick Durbin’s comparison of U.S. troops guarding al-Qaeda terrorists to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime – Pol Pot or others – who have no concern for human beings.” Although 12 investigations, over the course of 15 months, have concluded that “no torture occurred,” Durbin’s words – and the Left’s obsession over Abu Ghraib – made an indelible impression of America’s fighting men and women as monsters.

If anyone missed the point, a host of elected Democratic officials reinforced the point:

  • John Kerry told CBS’s Bob Schieffer, “there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children – you know, women – breaking sort of the customs of the, of, the historical customs, religious customs.
  • Jack Murtha held a press conference to assert, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” (Watch Murtha slander our troops.) His Haditha lie has since evaporated, yet he refuses to apologize.
  • On eve of 2006 midterm elections, epidemiologist and failed Democratic Congressional hopeful Les Roberts released a study claiming U.S. soldiers had killed 650,000 Iraqi civilians. Roberts’ ’06 Congressional platform called for “a short timetable” for withdrawal from Iraq. His research, which had been heavily underwritten by George Soros, was later cited favorably by Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden’s video was, in turn, praised by bloggers for DailyKos and CounterPunch.org.
  • Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA, insisted, “the United States kidnaps innocent people around the world, tortures detainees in secret prisons, and then constructs cynical legal arguments to cover it all up.
  • Failed ’06 Democratic Congressional candidate and DailyKos blogger Jeeni Crescenzo traveled to Iraq and blogged on her return, “if justice is to ever come to the people of Iraq, the people we call insurgents will have to be recognized as the ones who are actually defending their homeland.” Her campaign was endorsed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, former Sen. Max Cleland, Rep. Maxine Waters, and Democratic Lt. Governor of California Cruz Bustamante, among others.

Senator Rockefeller may not share these sentiments, but many in his party leadership undeniably do. And when their slanderous charges against our soldiers are repeated in the Middle Eastern media, they confirm every twisted suspicion entertained by our enemies, discredit our Arab allies, and all but invite violent retribution.

Rockefeller’s career could serve as a model of the Democratic Left’s devolving position on Iraq, from staunch hawks to hypocritical doves. During the debate to authorize force in Iraq, Rockefeller declared:


I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated…documented capability and demonstrated intent may be the only warning we get. To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? We cannot! (Emphasis in original.)

When such rhetoric no longer suited his political purposes, this fearless advocate of regime change did an about-face. “[Saddam] wasn’t going to attack us,” he said. “He would’ve been isolated there.

It was Sen. Rockefeller’s staff that produced an infamous memo suggesting Senate Democrats politicize the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into prewar intelligence. The 2003 document suggested Democrats “usefully collaborate” with Republicans until 2004. “We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence at any time — but we can only do so once...the best time would probably be next year.” He and his colleagues have followed the spirit, if not the letter, of this plan.

Sen. Rockefeller later confessed, “I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq, that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11.”

Although Rockefeller’s Senate Intelligence Committee had made no such allegation, Rockefeller accused Douglas Feith of “running a private intelligence failure [sic.], which is not lawful” – and when challenged by the Pentagon to produce evidence of his charge or retract it, he did neither.  

Now Rockefeller has implied anyone who has donned the uniform of this country and killed her sworn enemies without hand-wringing empathy is callous, savage, and unfit to be president. Whether Rockefeller intended to do so or not, he provided a crystal-clear window into the mind of the antiwar Left.

When informed of Rockefeller’s words yesterday, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, surmised, “behavior like this basically comes from wanting to win too badly.” I wish he were right. Unfortunately, it appears to stem from motivations more sinister.

Party of Defeat is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for $15, a 30 percent discount and less than Amazon.com. Autographed and personalized copies are also available; details are on the Bookstore webpage. Please call your local bookstores and ask them to stock the new book Party of Defeat by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, if they don't already have it in stock. And be sure to watch David Horowitz kick off the book's publicity tour with a hard-hitting interview on Hannity & Colmes on April 14.


Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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