Conventional wisdom before and after the Take Back America conference — featuring The Booing of Hillary — is that liberals are “dividing” the Democratic Party. Unlike the groomed and housebroken “centrist” Dems like Joe Lieberman, we liberals are flea-bitten, uncombed mutts scratching at the door with muddy paws. Our disagreement with the indoor pooches is not a difference in opposing views but an untidy “disarray” that threatens to soil the carpets.
Last Tuesday morning Senators Clinton and Kerry separately addressed the Take Back America attendees, who were assumed to be “liberal activists” in some news stories, although that point is debatable. Senator Clinton’s speech was well received on the whole, but her non-position on the Iraq War — she wants neither an open-ended commitment nor “a date certain” for withdrawal — drew polite applause, plus some heckling and boos. By contrast, Senator Kerry won the day, and the audience, by admitting he had been wrong on the war in 2002 and calling for a firm withdrawal date. When Kerry said this the audience caught fire and leapt to its feet, cheering and applauding lustily.
John Gibson of Fox News, believing he saw disarray among the Dems and overlooking parallel disagreements about the war among Republicans, attempted to shove a wedge into the party by pressing former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe to choose between “Hillary’s side” or “the John Kerry side.”
Wow, which is it? The divide is widening within the Democratic party over the war in Iraq. Two top Dems don’t agree on an exit strategy, as you’ve just heard. And all this comes as the party fights to take back control of Congress. Now some Democratic leaders are trying to take things in a new direction. Former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe joins us now. Before we get into a new direction, Terry, what am I supposed to make of no deadline from Hillary, must have a deadline now from John Kerry? What is a Democrat to think?
I think the audience at Take Back America answered that question clearly; a whopping majority of Dems at the conference preferred a firm withdrawal date to “whenever .” I realize the TBA crowd is not necessarily a representative sample of Democratic voters. But considering that only 9 percent of Democrats approve of the George Bush non-strategy in Iraq (CBS News Poll, June 10-11), the TBA attendees may reflect rank-and-file Dem opinion pretty durn accurately.
And it seems to me the same poll reveals the Republicans are more “disarrayed” than the Dems. The GOP split on the question “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?” was 71 to 24; the Dems split 9 to 85 (remainders were unsure).
Speaking for myself, I’m willing to consider options other than a firm withdrawal date. For example, I could live with a plan for withdrawal or redeployment within a time range — say, six to nine months, or by the end of 2007, or some such. What’s important is that the government draw up a concrete plan and then implement it in a timely manner. “Whenever” is not satisfactory. That appears to be the opinion of a solid majority of Dems.
Now, finally, print pundit Robert Kuttner suggests in today’s Boston Globe that just maybe the Dem party’s “disarray” is no disarray at all, but instead is a vacuum of leadership.
Most voters want to end American involvement in Iraq. As in the Vietnam War, the voters are ahead of most politicians. And political debate about defense is finally recovering from the administration’s manipulation of 9/11 trauma.
Yesterday’s passage of a House resolution affirming the President’s “plan” shows us political debate hasn’t recovered enough, however. Forty-two House Dems caved.
Democrats serious about national security are redefining what it means to protect America, and what it means to be a “Defense Democrat.” The dwindling Lieberman wing of the party and its enablers of George W. Bush have had a lock on that label for far too long.
Wow, a print pundit almost caught up to where leftie bloggers were even before the bleeping invasion. Be still my heart.
Digby links to a Republican analysis that says Dems aren’t ready to lead. The analysis points to the Lamont challenge of Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat as an example of immature Dem voters viewing the world through “war colored glasses.” Digby comments:
“The Democrats are not ready to lead.” I think we all know why, don’t we? The “war colored glasses” crowd is a terrible influence, don’t you know. We’re so out of control we are supporting a challenger in a Senate primary! Call out the guard!
And to charges the Dems haven’t fired up the base enough to ensure a House takeover by the Dems, Digby says,
I have to agree that Democrats have yet to fire up the base enough. And the reason is that although many voters are unhappy with Bush they can’t see how things will be any different with Democrats in charge of the congress….
…Democrats can ignore this and fret about the immature and distasteful grassroots — or they can start giving their base a reason to vote for them. Mid-terms are about turn-out. Until rank and file Dems see that their party won’t just excuse, enable and endorse GOP policies they have no reason to get off the couch.
Let’s be clear about this: if we lose this fall, it will not be because the “war colored glasses” crowd was immature and failed to behave properly at the debutante ball. It will be because the Democratic establishment blew off its own voters in order to please David Broder and the stale DC punditocrisy — the same thing they have been doing for more than a decade and losing.
Don’t look at us. We’re trying to get Democratic voters charged up about being Democrats again. Pissing and moaning because Joe Lieberman is facing a primary challenge is having the opposite effect. If we lose, it will be because the party establishment once more showed contempt for Democratic voters — a fatal error the Republicans never ever make.
I cannot understand why the Dems are so clueless. According to a CNN poll of June 14-15, Bush’s disapproval numbers are still sixteen points higher than his approval numbers. This was after the glorious victory over Zarqawi and the publicity stunt visit to Iraq, notice. The war remains solidly unpopular with big majorities of Dems and Independents (the “I’s” poll at 67 percent against, 27 percent for, same poll linked above). Yet the Bushies can still scare the Dems into covering Bush’s butt with the ol’ soft on
Communism terrorism threat.
You want to look tough and strong, Democrats? Then stand up to Bush. Every time you cave you prove to America you’re a pack of weenies.