Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Have The Democrats Completely Lost Direction?
No, I'm not talking about Rep. Jack Murtha this time, or even the disturbing number of Congressional Democrats willing to listen to him. I just seem to see a bunch of disconnected, disturbing signs this morning.
("Disturbing", I should explain, because I strongly believe that the United States needs a strong minority party. Whichever party is out of power, I want them to have good ideas and strong ideals; I don't want any party to be the only reasonable ones talking. There's also a certain sentimentality on my part; just about everyone I ever voted for, prior to 2004, was a Democrat. I remember when Democrats opposed dictatorships for being dictatorships, and accused Republicans of propping up the dictatorships. These days, Democrats seem to advocate leaving dictators alone; it's a shame.)
But first there's this:
Al Gore refuses to endorse Joe Lieberman — his former running mate — in Lieberman's re-election fight. (Nod to Ezra Klein). I guess Lieberman would have been good enough to run the government if something bad happened to Gore. But he's not obviously the best qualified to be the junior senator from Connecticut, even though he had the same job when Gore tapped him in 2000.Let me get this straight. Al Gore now refuses to endorse his own former running mate -- not in a run for the Presidency, heaven forfend, but just for re-election to his Senate seat?? (As I recall, actually, Gore didn't endorse Lieberman's Presidential bid in 2004 either.)
Jonah has it summed up: According to Gore, Lieberman was good enough to be Vice-President when Gore needed him, back in 2000, but now he's not even qualified to be the junior Senator from Connecticut. Unbelievable.
Then there's this:
I've considered the suggestion that the Democrats will re-nominate either John Kerry or Al Gore somewhat ludicrous. It seems clear to me that the Democrats have seen all they want to of Kerry, and, while most Democrats have nothing against Gore, he had his chance in 2000 and has been mostly invisible since then.I'd add that Gore isn't all that invisible right now -- but from a political standpoint, he's getting press for all the wrong reasons. (Unless he wants to run for office on the Global Warming ticket, that is.)
A CNN poll out today confirms that both Gore and Kerry would be weak candidates; 48% say they would "definitely vote against" Gore, and 47% would "definitely vote against" Kerry. What's striking is that 47% say they would "definitely vote against" Hillary Clinton. Which means that, notwithstanding Clinton's assiduous image-burnishing over the past several years, her negatives are as high as ever...
Which leaves the Democrats in need of a candidate. It's unfortunate, from their perspective, that Kerry, Gore and Clinton are soaking up all of the current media oxygen. They badly need new candidates to emerge, but in the present environment, it won't be easy.
Mind you, the Democrats still have plenty of time to pull a rabbit out of a hat, by nominating Barack Obama or some other "fresh blood" candidate. But John Hinderaker has a good point: how do you suppose Hillary et al will respond to an Obama Presidential run? (For that matter, there seem to be signs that Kerry wants another try, just to muddy the waters even further.)
Perhaps we'll see a Battle of the Behemoths, as Kerry and Hillary duke it out for the 2008 nomination (with Gore occasionally stepping in and confusing everybody)... leaving room for an exhausted Democratic National Convention to nominate somebody else entirely. (It's happened before: remember the Republicans in 1880?) But I'm not counting on it this time.
On a similar topic, Frank Rich at the New York Times -- no fan of the Bush Administration -- wrote this. (Hat tip: Just One Minute.)
On the war, Democrats are fighting among themselves or, worse, running away from it altogether. Last week the party's most prominent politician, Hillary Clinton, rejected both the president's strategy of continuing with "his open-ended commitment" in Iraq and some Democrats' strategy of setting "a date certain" for withdrawal. She was booed by some in her liberal audience who chanted, "Bring the troops home now!" But her real sin was not that she failed to endorse that option, but that she failed to endorse any option.Indeed. Still playing it safe, Sen. Clinton?
And then there's this:
During last week's congressional debate over the war in Iraq, critics of the Bush administration's policy made three arguments: that President Bush more or less lied when claiming Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S., there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that no progress is being made in the war there.And still we have no Democrat policy for moving forward with the War on Terror, other than "get out of Iraq now, before the Iraqi government can manage without us, so that it'll collapse and become the breeding ground for anti-American terrorism we claim it already is".
All three assumptions rest on shaky ground, so it is remarkable how much critics have seized on them with such fervor and certainty--the very vices of which they accuse the war's supporters. Indeed, one wonders how Democrats would react if real evidence of weapons of mass destruction, say the discovery of chemical weapon shells, surfaced. Would they step back and re-evaluate their assumptions, or would they accuse the Bush administration of planting the evidence as part of a Karl Rove-inspired pre-election dirty trick? Far from politics ending at the water's edge, today's partisan battles seem to take on added ferocity when they concern foreign policy.
Clean up your act, Democrats! America needs you.
Or perhaps Zell Miller had the right idea all along.
UPDATE: Peggy Noonan has a lot more to say -- and as usual, she says it a lot more eloquently (and thoughtfully) than I do. She also has plenty of criticisms for Republicans, which makes it all the more a worthwhile read.