Acts of submission.
The term was Winston Churchill's description of the different methods that had been employed by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his supporters to appease Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1930's. Chamberlain was appeasing, Churchill said, "in the hope that by great and far-reaching acts of submission, not merely in sentiment and pride, but in material matters, peace may be preserved." He went on to warn, correctly, of just how foolish -- and -- dangerous this would be to England.
If followed in a linear fashion, through the maze of late 20th century American history, personalities and politics the real reason why ex- President Clinton has so many critics over his policies dealing with terrorism -- the reason why this fall's midterm election brings another blistering critique of Democrats on national security issues -- is that, like Chamberlain and company, they have a history of "acts of submission." It is a very decided and by now very defined pattern of acts of submission by modern Democrats to foreign threats -- from Communism to Islamic fascism.
Let's start with the night of Wednesday, August 28th, 1968. On that night the Democratic Party, America's oldest, begins to implode.
As vividly described by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Theodore H. White in The Making of the President 1968, there are two battles going on simultaneously. Inside the Convention Hall at Chicago's stockyards, an angry debate is focused on American foreign policy -- which in 1968 meant Vietnam and the Cold War. Says White: "Never before had a party gathering attempted so violently to intrude itself in state policy while its party leaders were fighting a war....In Paris a negotiating team headed by two Democrats [former New York Governor Averell Harriman and future Carter Secretary of State Cyrus Vance] sought to bargain their way out of the war, yet found their political entrails at home bared by their own Party for the enemy's scrutiny."
The soon-to-be nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey -- a life-long leader of the liberal-wing of the Party -- was supporting a platform plank that read thusly: "We reject as unacceptable a unilateral withdrawal" from Vietnam. On the other side were Senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern and the supporters of the late Robert Kennedy, their minority plank -- a "peace" plank -- demanding what White described as "a forthright denunciation of America's commitment." After a furious fight, Humphrey's forces won, 1, 567 3/4 to 1,041 1/4. While Humphrey won the point, an ominous margin of 526 votes was the thin barrier that separated the robust national security policies bequeathed Democrats by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy from the start of another Democratic Party legacy altogether: appeasement. Meanwhile, outside Humphrey's hotel window in the streets of Chicago the anti-war demonstrators chanted "Sieg Heil," comparing Humphrey to Adolf Hitler. (Sound familiar?)
Yet it is White's description of David Dellinger, "the father figure" of the anti-war movement that resonates today -- especially today -- as a look into the mindset of the Democrats' future leadership. Dellinger was not only leading the opposition to American foreign policy in the Cold War, "he hated war and authority -- had refused to register for the draft in 1940." Meaning, he had opposed American policy in World War II!!! Talking to Dellinger, writes White, was "like a tour through a world of innocence." Later, he would look at his reporter's notebook to see that he had scribbled the following on that fateful August night, so struck by the thought that he noted the time, 8:05pm: "The Democrats," Theodore H. White wrote, "are finished."
Following White's presidential odyssey on to The Making of the President 1972, one can almost feel the palpable anger White, a friend and admirer of his first presidential subject, John F. Kennedy, has of the by now flood of extreme left-wingers overtaking the Democratic Party. What was Democratic nominee George McGovern's proposal for dealing with Vietnam and the Cold War? "To surrender," White writes tersely. He goes on to quote McGovern's strategy for dealing with the Cold War. "On the issue of war and peace, McGovern did his own thinking and could explain it with easy clarity: 'The war against Communism is over,' he said once to me, criticizing my story of 1968, 'the challenge to the free world from Communism is no longer relevant....Somehow we have to settle down and live with them.'" What was the root cause for American policy in McGovern's eyes? As White writes it was simple: "American criminality."
So the line was set. Surrender was to be the main foreign policy position of the Democratic Party, and coming in a close second would be an emphasis that American foreign policy was a criminal enterprise.
FOLLOW THE THREAD OF word and deed from leading Democrats since 1968. It isn't hard to see a philosophy of appeasement at work. They would easily fit Churchill's definition of "acts of submission, not merely in pride and sentiment, but in material matters."
* 1968 -- Minority Plank defeated at Democratic Convention calls for withdrawal from Vietnam.
* 1971 -- A young John Kerry testifies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "we cannot fight Communism all over the world, and I think we should have learned that lesson by now." He goes on to accuse his fellow soldiers of a long list of "war crimes."
* 1972 -- Senator George McGovern proposes unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam.
* 1975 -- Democratic Congress ends funding of Vietnam War, American troops leave Southeast Asia. Years later Yale University's Cambodian Genocide Program reports that between 1975-1979 1.7 million people were murdered, 21% of the Cambodian population. A Senate Committee headed by Democrat Frank Church of Idaho investigates the CIA, an investigation described by then-President Gerald Ford as "sensational and irresponsible." Others charge Church with crippling the agency.
* 1977 -- President Jimmy Carter, safely elected after campaigning as an Annapolis graduate/Navy officer, tells America it has an "inordinate fear of communism." While the Cambodian genocide proceeds, the Soviets invade Afghanistan and set up a puppet regime in Nicaragua. American hostages are held in Iran for over a year. Carter cuts the defense budget so badly that Reagan's incoming Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger recalled not being "entirely over [the] shock at the weaknesses in our own military capability" Carter had left behind.
*1983 -- New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro joins the Democratic chorus opposing President Ronald Reagan's decision to send troops to Grenada. In spite of Reagan's rescue of American medical students and halting a Communist takeover, she charges, according to the New York Times, that it was "an inappropriate and precipitous use of military force." A year later Ms. Ferraro becomes the Democratic nominee for Vice-President. Her chief foreign policy adviser, according to the Times, is future Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
* 1983 -- Senator Edward Kennedy leads Democrats in disparaging Reagan's idea of shooting down nuclear tipped missiles from space as "Star Wars" -- fighting a system that only this year was invoked as a way to save the West Coast of the United States from a North Korean missile attack.
*1984 -- Walter Mondale campaigns for president on the idea that America should have a "nuclear freeze" with the Soviets. He vows to stop the "illegal war" in Nicaragua "in my first hundred days," accuses Reagan of wanting to "turn the heavens into a battleground," and ginning up an "arms race" with the Soviets. Dismissing Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, Central America and Communist treatment of Jewish dissidents, Mondale pleads for arms control. The concept of victory and ending the Cold War is never discussed.
* 1985 -- Reykjavik Summit: When Reagan walks away from a bad deal he is sharply criticized by Democratic Congressman Ed Markey for giving up "a chance to cash in on Star Wars" by refusing to trade away the entire SDI program. Later, it is this refusal that is credited with winning the Cold War.
*1988 -- Michael Dukakis runs for president opposing efforts to defeat the Communist government of Nicaragua, saying his election would not be about "overthrowing governments in Central America."
* 1991 -- By a five-vote margin the Democratic-controlled Senate votes to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait after he invaded the country. The majority of Democrats vote no. This includes now-Senator John Kerry, who said the U.S. was "once again willing to risk people dying from a mistake."
For five decades now, beginning with that hot August Chicago night in 1968, the modern Democratic Party has adopted the attitude, philosophy, policy and practices of appeasement. All of this -- and much more -- was well before Bill Clinton even got near the Oval Office. An office he won only when Americans understood the Cold War was finally over, believing that there were no serious threats on the horizon. Only then did a modern Democrat once again live in the White House.
In context, with this history, it just isn't hard to understand why so many Americans don't buy Clinton's defense of his failure to get Osama bin Ladin. It's also why the demands to "get out of Iraq" from Democrats, combined with impeachment threats, are increasingly understood as just the latest in a very long -- and now self-evidently very dangerous -- pattern.
A pattern of acts of submission.
Jeffrey Lord is the author of The Borking Rebellion. A former political director in the Reagan White House, he is now a writer in Pennsylvania.
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