Evan Maloney's Brain Terminal:
Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission made for riveting listening. The political fireworks were on full display when the Democrats on the panel pressed Rice, asking why President Bush had not developed a pre-September 11th plan to preemptively attack Afghanistan and disrupt al Qaeda. Former Senator Bob Kerrey embarrassed himself by rudely interrupting Rice during her answers to his questions, and when she insisted on completing her answer, Kerrey pouted and huffed. Partisan applause broke out among the Democrats in the crowd whenever someone asked a pointed question of Rice.
The line of questioning against Rice made it quite obvious that scoring points against the Bush Administration was the true goal of many of the panel members. There were no questions about the fact that, while al Qaeda bombs go off around the world, somehow they have not yet managed to touch our homeland again. It might be interesting for the world to hear what we're doing right; some of the other countries that find themselves in al Qaeda's crosshairs might discover we've been taking action worthy of emulating.
But instead of trying to analyze what works and what doesn't in the hopes that we might do better in the future, it is obvious that assigning blame--not securing our nation against terrorists--is the true goal of the Democratic party today. That's because Democratic politicians mistakenly believe that they can regain power merely by pointing accusatory fingers at President Bush. But voters are a little smarter than that. If voters see nothing from the Democrats other than anger, if they see accusations but no alternatives, if they only see a series of self-contradictory criticisms, voters will see right through it.
The biggest problem the Democrats face in the upcoming election is their credibility on issues of national security. It's the one issue where a sizable bloc of voters perceive the biggest difference between the parties. On any other issue, the two parties could conceivably fight to a draw, but most voters--regardless of whether they ultimately plan on voting for President Bush--see him primarily as the national security candidate.
If the Democrats want to neutralize President Bush on this issue, they have to articulate a credible vision for dealing with terrorism. But even that will be difficult for the Democrats, because their criticisms of President Bush have no logical consistency. There is no underlying philosophy on which Democrats base their critiques of the Bush Administration; instead, their rhetoric is comprised of reflexive opposition to whatever President Bush does. If you want to test this assertion in the real world, try this: next time you run across a partisan Democrat, ask whether President Bush has done anything right. Odds are, the response will contain less than one item.
The inconsistencies of the Democratic arguments against President Bush make it impossible for them to put forth any alternate vision, because anything they propose will conflict with some of their previous criticisms. Even that they'll deny, though; they'll sweeten their waffles with the syrup of nuance, the word they use to cover up the fact that they're holding several completely contradictory stances simultaneously.
Let's look at the foreign policy arguments the Democrats have been making:
The Bush Administration did not do enough to prevent September 11th. Some of the criticisms lobbed during the 9/11 Commission hearings question why the Bush Administration did not--prior to September 11th--start acting on a plan to invade Afghanistan preemptively, topple the Taliban, and rout al Qaeda. But if such a plan existed, and President Bush tried to carry it out before September 11th, does anyone seriously think the Democrats would have supported it? If you think they would have, then you haven't been paying attention for the last two years.
Saddam Hussein is a menace and must be removed. This was an argument made by many Democrats when one of their own--Bill Clinton--was in the White House. In fact, President Clinton, along with the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, made it the official policy of the United States to seek regime change in Iraq. Several times, Clinton even acted unilaterally against Saddam Hussein. There was no Democratic hand-wringing about consulting the U.N. first, nor was there any discussion about how the French, Russians or Germans would feel about it. Apparently, our foreign policy only requires outside approval when Republicans are in office.
Saddam Hussein never attacked us. We shouldn't have gone in and taken out his regime. The Democrats criticized President Bush for not acting unilaterally in Afghanistan before September 11th. And the Democrats supported taking out Saddam Hussein when President Clinton was in office. But once President Bush came into the White House, the Democrats changed their tune. They want unilateral action whenever President Bush doesn't take unilateral action, but when the president does take unilateral action, that's not good either.
We haven't found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush lied!!! During the Clinton Administration, Democrats said Saddam Hussein had such weapons. They were reading the same intelligence reports that President Bush relied upon. But that didn't stop people like Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy from accusing President Bush of lying and saying he "concocted the war in Iraq from Texas". (Kennedy, it should be noted, once said, "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.") To date, I have never gotten an answer to this question: if President Bush concocted all the "lies" about Saddams's weapons, then how did he manage to--years before he came into office--convince so many Clinton Administration officials that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?
Here's the problem for the Democrats. You can't be both for and against unilateral action. You can't be both for and against a pre-emptive attack against a known enemy who has vowed to do us harm. You can't talk about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s and then pretend now that they never existed. You can't call for toppling Saddam Hussein and then criticize someone for actually doing it. Actually, I guess you can do these things, because that's exactly what the Democrats have been doing.
According to principles of quantum mechanics, it is possible for a subatomic particle to occupy multiple positions at the same time. Perhaps the Democrats hope to become the quantum party. If so, it explains why John Kerry, the consummate Quantum Candidate, is the perfect person to head the Democratic ticket this fall. Here's a man who criticizes President Bush for not giving our troops in Iraq sufficient supplies and equipment. But when he was given a chance to vote for an $87 billion package to supply our troops, he ultimately voted against it. (Although, in fairness to Kerry, I should note his nuanced stance on the issue: he explained his vote by saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.")
Principled, persuasive arguments can be made both for and against the tenets of the Bush Doctrine. Unfortunately, the Democrats are squandering their opportunity to outline an alternative vision and instead are resorting to knee-jerk criticisms and ad hominem attacks. That's too bad; this is a discussion our country must have, because it will determine how we handle this war against radical Islam, a war that could easily last a century. But it seems that the only war the Democrats want to wage is one against President Bush.