The right is whining. They are in control of all three branches of the government, but they’re whining. Why? Because for the first time since the 2000 election the left is fighting back. Across the entire spectrum of Democratic politics the ascendancy of George Bush to the White House was a cause for concern, partially because of the method in which he gained his office and in large part for what it was feared he would do once in 1600 Pennsylvania. The only respite that the Democrats had was that Bush’s slim electoral win and loss in the popular vote meant that any radical politics would be held in check. Sadly this was not the case, as the President chosen by the minority began to govern as if he had won a landslide. Still, the Democrats were able to fight Bush via their minority in the Senate and it was felt that Al Gore would make an eventual return to public life as the defacto opposition leader.
September 11th happened and it changed the world. The majority of Democrats were ready and willing to support a President they disliked because a threat from beyond our borders didn’t care about party affiliation. Prominent Democrats like Senator Tom Daschle and Rep. Dick Gephardt openly supported the President in the attack on Afghanistan, seen internationally not as American aggression but instead as warranted self-defense.
The Democrats were suckered. Their “mistake” was approaching September 11th and related terrorist threats in the same manner America usually reserves for traditional warfare: bipartisan. The problem was the attack was seen by some of the President’s closest advisers (Vice President Dick Cheney and Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld particularly) as an opening to use the strength of the American military to actively and aggressively shape the international scene, particularly the Mideast, into their own vision of how things should be run. Bush’s political advisor Karl Rove saw the newfound patriotism as a way to give the president political leverage, recasting all sorts of issues as security and defense related. Even a skewed tax cut was sold by spokesman Ari Fleischer as a way to support the troops.
Iraq suddenly became a front-burner issue before the ’02 elections and even though Donald Rumsfeld derided the news as a “frenzy”, plans were already being made for that country’s invasion and occupation. Afraid to be tarnished as unpatriotic the Democrats were roped into supporting the war with little to no debate on the merits of the case for the conflict. The President’s major points were not the oppression of the Iraqi people, because as much as America will condemn brutality and support freedom we are much like other nations in that we will send in our soldiers only when our lives are at stake. In Great Britain and in Washington, Tony Blair and George Bush made the assertion that while liberating the people of Iraq was a good thing – the reason why we had to go to war right away concerned Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and what they could do when used by forces of evil.
The problem now is that the vaunted stockpile of weapons is missing or nonexistent, and that a lot of the evidence cited as justification for combat was misleading, false or inconclusive. The war on Iraq, in contrast to the action in Afghanistan, was sold on an idea of an aggressive posture – not defensive. The question the Democrats are rightly asking is: how can we trust the government to be proactive if they will just shade the evidence in their favor when push comes to shove?
Questioning Bush on matters of defense, the only plank he can strongly stand on since his domestic policies fizzle upon application, concerns the right-wing in America. So much so that they have begun to whine about it.
For once, the Democrats have cut down on the internal eternal party bickering and focused on the president and his duplicity. Even the presidential campaign rivals are united in their derision of the president’s fuzzy reading. This drives the right mad. Since the disaster of the Carter presidency, the shoe has been on the other foot. Emboldened by Reagan’s popularity, then riled by Clinton’s victory, the right has had a well-honed and fined tuned media and policy apparatus that has tried everything to make their ideas into America’s “default” positions. President Clinton so successfully fought off this attack that they had to resort to impeachment over his affair to wound him, and were soundly rebuked by America for going off the edge of reason. The 2000 election was just a more fine-tuned version of this jihad mentality.
The uranium scandal has given the Democrats an opening, and where in the past they may have passed it up (since national security is supposed to be devoid of domestic politics) it seems they realize that to get ahead they must play a similar game to the Republicans. It’s a good start, but only a start.
Pushing for full administration disclosure on both the case for war in Iraq, the costs and preparedness of the occupation, and the intelligence/executive branch failures that allowed 9.11 to happen would be a start, along with inquiries into why our war on terrorism seems to stop at Saudi Arabia’s border. September 11th changed the world, and especially America, but that does not mean that we should fight the war on terrorism without the support of the globe (Iraq is costing us $1 billion a week to support, a sum that would be much more palatable if we shared it with the world) nor does it mean we can attack whoever we want with the lamest evidence that’s on hand. America is better than that, and it would make us safer.
National security is priority one for either political party, and explaining to America that Bush’s policies are not only foolhardy but simultaneously dishonest will allow the Democrats to sell a more rational and traditional concept of America’s place as the leader of the world. From there on, a unified message of honesty on domestic and fiscal issues can follow – no matter how much the right wing wants to whine about it.
We’ve heard their story before, and unless you live in the same circles of privilege many of them do – it won’t work, it hasn’t worked and it isn’t working. There needs to be a clear alternative in this country, and the people deserve it – no matter what the right choses to label it as in their fight to hold on to the power that they’ve received.
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