Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Those at the back cry 'Forward!'
Posted on 09/28/2002 3:57:28 PM PDT by Pokey78
As I understand it, the British Labour Party is divided between those in favour of war with Iraq and those opposed to it. In the US Democratic Party, it's more complicated:.
Faction A is anti-war but trying hard not to have to say so between now and election day in November.
Faction B was pro-war when it was Bill Clinton in charge but anti-war now there's a Republican rallying the troops.
Faction C can go either way but huffily insists that to ask them to express an opinion would be to "politicise" the war.
Faction D can't quite figure which position alienates least of their supporters and so articulates a whole all-you-can-eat salad bar of conflicting positions and then, in a weird postmodern touch, ostentatiously agonises over the "inherent risks" in each of them.
Faction E thinks the priority right now should be to sit around holding inquiries into why the administration failed to act on what it knew about al-Qa'eda before they killed thousands of Americans. To act on what we know about Saddam before he kills thousands of Americans would be an unnecessary distraction from the important work of investigating why we didn't act last time round.
Taken as a whole, the 50 Democratic senators' current positions on Iraq forms the all-time record multiple-contortionist pretzel display. But a week ago they showed signs of finally remembering the First Rule of Holes: when you're in one, stop digging. Instead of talking about why they don't want to talk about Iraq, they correctly figured that the easiest thing would be to give Bush some qualified, perfunctory support and hastily change the subject to something more favourable, such as the allegedly collapsing economy.
But then Al Gore rose from the dead to demonstrate that his political antennae are still as reliable as a 1948 TV with busted rabbit ears. Senate Democrats emerged from their hole to find their 2004 presidential frontrunner had dug them a brand new one. Remember Al? The first Android-American to run for President? The first candidate to win the popular vote without being popular?
Al spent his riveting Gore '00 presidential campaign in a fruitless pursuit for "the real Al Gore", launching a brand new "real Al Gore" every couple of weeks. But, in fairness to the Democratic Party's very own weapon of mass self-destruction, throughout all his multiple personalities Gore has been consistently tough on Saddam, ever since he was one of the few Democratic Senators to vote for the first Gulf War 12 years ago.
Not any more, though. Last week, Al decided he's against a war with Iraq. Iraq, he argues, will distract us from Afghanistan. "Great nations," he intones, "do not jump from one unfinished task to another." Just so.
You'll remember that in the Second World War, after its early victories in the Pacific, the US wisely concentrated on nation-building in the Solomon Islands for five or 10 years instead of rushing on to liberate Europe. America, says Al, can't fight Iraq and mop up Afghanistan at the same time. We can walk. Or we can chew gum. But we shouldn't try to jump from walking to gum-chewing until we're certain we've completed our walk.
Poor Al: the smart bomb who's so smart and always bombs. With his usual brilliant instincts, he chose to discard his pro-war stance just as his party's senators were discarding their anti-war stance. Thus, the Democrats found themselves with the rare double problem of figuring out a way to spin both the obvious opportunism of their belated approval for the war and the obvious opportunism of Gore's belated opposition to it.
That's why a couple of days later the normally sober, soft-spoken, funereal Tom Daschle, the Democrats' leader in the Senate, had a meltdown on the floor of the chamber. For months, the calmly evasive Daschle has stuck to an unvarying routine on Iraq. He has "concerns". He has "grave concerns". His concerns have concerns. He's gravely concerned that the President isn't concerned about some of his concerns and that concerns him all the more. Plus he's concerned that the Republicans may be politicising the political process. Also, he has "questions".
Thousands of questions: Has the President weighed all the options? Is the President aware of the risks? Could the President weigh all the options a couple more times? Is the President aware there may be some risks he's not aware of? When the President says he's weighing all the options, is that in pounds or kilograms? Does the President know who put the bomp in the bomp-sh-bomp-sh-bomp, who put the ram in the ram-a-lama-ding-dong? Where have all the flowers gone? What kind of fool am I? If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I? In the immortal words of David Cassidy, how can I be sure in a world that's constantly changing?
The only real question was how long Daschle could keep this up before he cracked. On Wednesday, the South Dakotan choked up on the Senate floor and angrily demanded that Bush apologise to every Democratic veteran for implying the party was somehow soft on the war.
The network correspondents hailed this as one of the most genuinely profoundly moving performances since Al Jolson last sang Sonny Boy or, alternatively, Bill Clinton held his final post-Monica "prayer breakfast" with his legions of "spiritual advisors". But, as someone who sat there howling with laughter as Senator Daschle blinked back tears, I think his attack on the President was an example of what the shrinks call displacement: Bush only implied the Democrats were soft on the war; Gore positively boasted about it.
I hasten to add that in gleefully mocking Gore's inept cynicism and Daschle's sob-sister routine I'm certainly not impugning the patriotism of the Democratic leadership. Few of us will forget the stirring words last week of Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, summing up the party's current position: "If the UN adopts the kind of resolution authorising force to enforce the kind of inspections that they should have a resolution adopted for, then I believe this resolution should say: in the event the UN adopts a resolution authorising member states to use force to enforce the inspections, I believe this resolution should say that under those circumstances we should authorise force to enforce that UN resolution."
Got that? It's available from party headquarters on a bumper sticker, if you've got a stretch limo long enough.
The sight of the Democratic Party "wrestling" (as Al put it) with its conscience over Iraq is like some old-time carney freakshow: it's strangely compelling, but you can't help feeling it's cruel to put these misfits on public display. The administration doesn't need to "politicise" the war. They're for it. So are the American people. The Democrats have had since the liberation of Kabul 10 months ago to work out a viable position. Instead, they seem to have run the various options past the focus-groups, identified the half-dozen least popular, and plumped for all of them.
Five weeks till election day and the Democratic Party's doing a dandy impression of one of those incompetent suicide bombers who accidentally self-detonates before he gets on the bus.
A perfect example of how hypocrite they are.
"Five weeks till election day and the Democratic Party's doing a dandy impression of one of those incompetent suicide bombers who accidentally self-detonates before he gets on the bus."
From the Democrats' Off-Broadway Musical, "Please Don't Let's Be Beastly To Saddam".
Mark Steyn is out of this world--
--but, Senator Daschle, your head's stuck in Uranus.
Please, Dear Lord?!
VINTAGE ROCK'N'ROLL STEYN!!
Dang! That tea burns!
You think I would learn not to drink anything while reading him.