Thursday, March 13, 2003
Salon article urges Democratic contenders to continue with their opposition when we go to war http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2003/03/13/dems/index.html
Democrats have a brand-new dilemma over the looming Iraq invasion: What should they say -- especially the half-dozen or so camped out in Iowa right now, crusading for the '04 presidential nomination -- once war breaks out?
Even some antiwar Democrats are insisting they won't criticize the Bush administration once the fighting begins. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who's staked out a complex pro-disarming Saddam, anti-unilateral-war approach to the mess, says he'll hit the mute button immediately. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a more unequivocal war opponent than Kerry, told the Boston Globe he's not sure he'll keep it up once the shooting starts. War critics like former Sen. Gary Hart and Florida Sen. Bob Graham may postpone official announcements of their candidacies if war begins, as expected, in the next couple of weeks. Only Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun, who are not given much chance of winning the nomination, have had the courage to tell reporters that they'll stick with their antiwar message come war.
This timidity is Reason No. 392 for the political question vexing Democrats right now: Why is it that polls show President Bush losing the '04 election to an "Unnamed Democrat," but beating all the Democrats who are currently in the race? Everyone knows this president is supremely vulnerable. He's plundered the surplus and pushed an economic policy that has arguably worsened the recession. He's angered most of our allies and is now on the verge of a potentially disastrous war whose rationale changes every day. His poll numbers dip almost daily, too.
But Bush can still probably beat any of the Democrats lined up against him, because no one yet has shown the charisma or the courage to break out of the pack. And otherwise admirable candidates like Kerry and Dean seem to be faltering in this early test of political integrity.
Joan Walsh makes a few pretty good points. She states correctly that the Democrats lack of a platform cost them during last fall's elections, and proposes that by waffling on the anti-war message they may confirm to voters that they don't really "stand for anything". Walsh particularly takes Kerry to task for saying he'd zip it once the bombs start dropping:
"It's what you owe the troops," Kerry said in a prepared news statement. "I remember being one of those guys and reading news reports from home. If America is at war, I won't speak a word without measuring how it'll sound to the guys doing the fighting when they're listening to their radios in the desert." If only Kerry remembered how he felt once he got home from Vietnam, when his worst fears were confirmed that the war was a huge mistake. (It would also be nice if he remembered there are gals, not just guys, on the front lines today.) He seems to have forgotten the question he is most famous for, the one he asked a U.S. Senate committee in 1971, demanding they shut the Vietnam War down immediately: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
She also contends that if the war is wrong today, it will be wrong once the bombing starts and on every day it continues. Walsh concludes that Democrats will suffer permanent damage if they look like they're waffling (or "backsliding") on their anti-war stance:
The Democrats' efforts to dodge the war politically didn't work last November -- and they paid with their political lives. The nation will pay for their timidity with real lives once the war starts.
It seems that people across the nation are very hesitant to go to war without UN backing. The last poll I checked has less than 40% support for war without the UN, and it appears as though the gravity of this situation is sinking in with the "everyman". Bush has trashed our allies, broken international treaties, and is charging full steam ahead in his obsession. And people are beginning to realise that the majority of the world's population is against this war. If we were to get UN backing, those numbers change drastically. People would support UN sanctioned action. But right now we are indeed isolated and plunging into unilateral war.
Since the momentum is certainly swinging against Bush, it might be wise for the contenders to keep the heat on. What are your opinions? How do you feel about the notion that the candidates might back off once the war starts? When would be an appropriate time for them to being speaing up again? I think that's the question floating around right now. Does anyone have the answer?
On a positive note, it's nice to see Salon treating Dean like the top tier candidate we know him to be.
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.