The Dems: Bums
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"Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. I would say to John, 'Let me put it to you this way. The Lord Almighty, or Allah, whoever, if he came to every kitchen table in America and said, "Look, I have a Faustian bargain for you, you choose. I will guarantee to you that I will end all terror threats against the United States within the year, but in return for that there will be no help for education, no help for Social Security, no help for health care." What do you do?' My answer is that seventy-five percent of the American people would buy that bargain."
– Joe Biden, in The New Yorker , on what he would say to John Kerry
"Look, the answer is, we have to do an unbranding. We have to brand more effectively. It's marketing."
– Kerry, in the same piece, on the Democrats' need to sell themselves as tough
Around the same time Joe Biden was selling New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Goldberg on the idea that the only hope for the Democratic Party was to abandon all social programming and invade the planet, some interesting polls were taken in the three countries most involved in the Iraq invasion.
In the United States, a Washington Post /ABC News poll released on March 16 showed that 53 percent of Americans think the Iraq war was not worth fighting, 57 percent disagreed with President Bush's handling of the Iraq war, and 70 percent said that the number of U.S. casualties incurred in the war was unacceptable.
In Australia, one of the U.S.'s last stalwart partners on the war, the government's approval rating fell below 50 percent for the first time in ages, with a new poll showing Labor with a 52-48 advantage. Prime Minister John Howard conceded that the drop was due to public dissatisfaction with the continued presence of Australian troops in Iraq.
In Britain, meanwhile, a spate of polls was conducted in anticipation of the May 5 elections. Because of the huge majority owned by Tony Blair's Labour Party in the House of Commons – 408 seats to 162 for the Conservative party – Blair is almost certain to be reelected to a third term. But the Labour advantage is dropping fast, losing about a percentage point a month in recent months, with Iraq the main cause. In February, the Labour advantage was 38 percent to 32, with the remainder going to the Liberal-Democrat party. This month, it's 37-34. Conventional wisdom anticipates that Labour will retain its advantage but lose about two-dozen seats. Blair's personal approval rating, meanwhile, has plummeted to around 35 percent, mirroring a slide enjoyed recently by George Bush, who has been in the mid 40s since the New Year.
Blair is also facing a major scandal over Iraq that is inspiring demonstrations all over the country. In a documentary aired on the show Panorama this weekend, MI6 chief Richard Dearlove said that he had briefed Blair well before the war that America's Iraq intelligence was "fixed" to meet the administration's goal of invading Iraq at all costs. Dearlove said that nine months before the invasion, he attended a meeting in Washington at which he concluded that war in Iraq was "inevitable" – a conclusion he shared with Blair.
"The facts and intelligence" were being "fixed round the policy" by U.S. President George Bush's administration, Dearlove said. The documentary claims that Blair had signed on to support the war as early as April 2002. Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary who resigned over Iraq, echoed Dearlove's comments.
"What was propelling the prime minister was a determination that he would be the closest ally to George Bush and they would prove to the United States administration that Britain was their closest ally," Cook told the program. "His problem is that George Bush's motivation was regime change. It was not disarmament. Tony Blair knew perfectly well what he was doing."
In the midst of all of this, the Democratic Party is preparing its shiny new 2008 position on Iraq and terror. Described in Goldberg's New Yorker article, the political plan is centered around a new faction that calls itself the "National Security Democrats" (a term coined by that famous liberal, Richard Holbrooke) and is led by revolting hair-plug survivor Joe Biden. The position of the "National Security Democrats" is that the party should be "more open to the idea of military action, and even preemption" and that the Democrats should "try to distance themselves from the Party's Post-Vietnam ambivalence about the projection of American power." Additionally, the Democrats ought to reconsider their traditional stance as an opposition party and learn to embrace Republican heroes like Ronald Reagan.
"Everyone knew 'Reagan is dangerous,' remember?" Biden says. "He talked about freedom, and what do we do? We say it's bad speech, dangerous speech." Democrats, he says, "are making the same mistakes again."
It would be easy to dismiss the Biden revival as a cheap stunt by a discredited party hack with all the national appeal of the streptococcus virus, except for one thing. Biden's "national security" camp includes all four of the expected main contenders for the Democratic nomination – Biden himself, Hillary Clinton, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, and John Edwards. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, another outside contender, is also a member of this camp. We are going to be hearing a lot about "National Security Democrats" in the next three years.
The Democratic party leadership's persistent and bizarre campaign of self-condemnation and Republican bootlicking is one of those things that, on its face, makes very little logical sense. It makes cultural sense; we have come to expect that the cultural figures we call the Democrats will respond to electoral failure first by sniveling and finger-pointing, and then by puffing up their chests and telling their dates they know how to handle themselves in a bar fight. From the Republicans we expect just the opposite; beaten at the polls, they immediately start cozying up to snake-handlers and gun freaks and denouncing school lunches as socialism. It is impossible to imagine a Newt Gingrich responding, say, to LBJ's Great Society by concocting its own expensive plan to feed the poor black man – but we fully expect that a Democrat who loses an election will suddenly start to reconsider his opposition to pre-emtpive invasion and Reaganomics.
We expect these things, so they strike us as logical when we see them happen. But they make no sense. A merely cynical opposition party would be emboldened by poll numbers showing majority opposition to the war to court those votes. And a moral one would seize upon news of the sort coming out of Britain to argue to not only to their own voters (who would unanimously support them in this aim), but to the country at large, that the invasion of Iraq was based upon a fallacy, illegal and impeachable.
But the Democratic leaders do neither. Instead, they tell 53 percent of the country that they are mistaken, and throw their chips in with the other 47 percent, who incidentally support the other party and are not likely to ever budge. They then go further and try to argue that fighting the war on terror requires abandoning health care, education and Social Security – an idea that, let's face it, makes no fucking sense at all.
Franklin Roosevelt never argued anything like that, and he fought a global world war against two mighty industrial powers. But now 4,000 retards in caves are going to close down the entire American school system. If that is the Democratic idea of looking "strong," one hates to imagine what weakness would look like.
Matt Taibbi lives in New York. He covers politics for Rolling Stone and the New York Press .