The recent debate
of the nine Democratic candidates for the Presidency in Detroit, Michigan
sponsored by Fox News and the Congressional Black Caucus must have brought
a broad smile to President George Bush. Perhaps never before has there been
so pathetic a gathering of would-be leaders. With the exception of Lieberman
and Gephardt, the foreign and defense policy of the remaining candidates
was simply “cut and run.” The remaining candidates claimed to be against
the Iraqi invasion or believe that they were voting for something other than
an invasion of Iraq. They must have thought that the Peace Corps was going
to land in Baghdad and persuade Saddam Hussein to be a nice guy. Beyond this,
they all professed a belief in the “international community.” That must mean
that France, Germany and Russia, which had done business with the Iraqi regime
for decades, were going to really come in and clean house. These countries
had no vested interest in receiving billions of dollars from the Hussein
regime. Even more outrageous, Howard Dean, John Kerry (who supported the
original resolution), Dennis Kucinich and others call the nations that have
supported us (Australia, UK, Poland, Eastern Europe, Singapore…etc) a “counterfeit”
alliance. (Perhaps Pat Buchanan can find common ground with these “tail between
your legs,” slink away isolationists.)
These folks give new meaning to “Monday morning quarterbacking.” They undoubtedly
would have all had better intelligence and a well-organized plan to reform
and exit Iraq. Unlike President Bush, Chirac, Schroeder and Putin would have
gladly joined our merry band of reformers in Iraq. Another common refrain
is that the war in Iraq is a diversion from the War on Terrorism. Never mind
that Iraq was the soft underbelly of terror-sponsoring states. Never mind
that weapons of mass destruction do not have to be huge nuclear arsenals
but can be small and equally lethal vials of deadly biological agents. What
a surprise that in a country the size of California we have not found these
agents. Even more outrageous, we know that France gave passports to ex-Hussein
leaders to cross the border into Syria. Syria now harbors and exports terrorists
throughout Iraq and the entire region. The revolutionary impact of a democratic
regime in the center of the Middle East is completely lost on these dolts.
Most repulsive is the candidacy of Wesley Clark. Hiding behind his four stars,
he berates the Administration for policies that he did, in fact, endorse
until his presidential ambitions took hold of him. He has flip-flopped so
many times on his assessment of the wisdom of the Iraqi invasion that he
should be a contortionist in the circus rather than a candidate for President.
Never has there been such brazen opportunism than the candidacy of Wesley
Clark. Like the others, he would have had a brilliant plan for organizing
the international community and establishing a speedy and safe exit for American
troops. He laments the innocent civilian deaths in Iraq but takes pride
in the operations in the Balkans which saw the most brutal slaughter of innocent
civilians chased from their homes in Kosovo by US bombs. If there were ever
a case of indiscriminate bombing, Allied Commander Clark was the master.
When faced with the accusation by his peers that he was not promoted for
reasons of “integrity and character,” General Clark dodged the charge and
simply labeled it “McCarthyism” -- just pathetic!!
As for the other major candidates, Lieberman is a kind of walking anesthesia.
Howard Dean comes off as an arrogant, bombastic version of George McGovern.
Kerry is the aristocratic snob posing as the pal of Joe Six-Pack. It just
doesn’t sell. I thing everyone is getting sick of the “My dad worked in a
mill” or “My dad was a milkman” variety of log-cabin populism.
When the debate turned to domestic policy, there were truly no taxes or massive
government programs these Democrats did not want to pander to their entitlement
constituencies. Universal health care, universal nursery and kindergarten,
building infrastructure (nobody bothered to ask John Kerry about the disastrous
“Big Dig” in Boston), more money thrown at the education system, universal
opposition to free choice (vouchers) in education, more Pell grants, more
food stamps, more Medicare, more Medicaid…virtually more everything, except
national defense, homeland security and police protection.
The fact that the Clinton administration was responsible for sleeping at
the switch regarding Iraq’s violations, the growth of Al-Quaida or the development
of North Korean nuclear capability was conveniently forgotten during the
entire debate. Instead this was a brazen display of “soak the rich” class
warfare and “bread and circuses” for every group in America that has been
convinced that they are victims of something or other. These Democrats have
also developed an entire new theology. Suddenly, in their minds, everyone
is entitled to “affordable health care,” “quality education,” “decent living
conditions”…etc. Did I miss something? Did Moses come down from Mount Sinai
and declare these inalienable Rights? Are these rights not really privileges
of living in a prosperous, capitalist system which has excess to give to
these programs. Does anyone think that “soaking the rich” to give to partisan
constituency is something other than outright stealing??? Do hard working
American exist to be work-slaves to support the ambitions of these unscrupulous
I think President Bush can rest easy given his rag-tag group of opponents.
Of course, if the economy were to tank -- even the most egregious pond scum
could get elected. Should the Democrats attack a sitting President in the
midst of a serious war, this is a sure recipe for disaster. Given the economy
and the slow but steady progress abroad, the outlook for the President looks
good. Given the outrageous excess of the Democrats on domestic policy, this
is an auspicious time for the President to assert traditional Republican
values of limited government and drop his foolhardy plan for socialism-lite
in Medicare and other domestic programs. The Bush administration is going
to have to answer to his own base for the growth of the non-defense portion
of the Federal budget. Frankly, the war covers a multitude of sins and one
of Bush’s is his near abandonment of conservative domestic policy. The milquetoast
response of the Senate Republicans to the unprecedented filibuster of conservative
jurists is another point of shame. If Senate Majority Leader Frist is right
and he’s trying to save the Republican version of Medicare and support for
the War on Terrorism and thus does not want to alienate Democrats, this is
a strange strategy indeed. On the contrary, Frist should push through a change
in Senate rules, confirm the Federal judges and then let the Democrats take
the blame for the failure of the Medicare Prescription boondoggle and for
cutting the rug out from under the President in the middle of the war.
The weakness of the Democratic field should allow the President to avoid
unnecessary “triangulation” and stand strong for the foundation principles
of the Republican Party and get a true and unambiguous mandate for conservatism.
Scott Shore is a political commentator and management consultant in Providence, Rhode Island.