Political Hay

The Ted and the Fury

Who knew that Ted Kennedy would be the next Ted Agnew?

By 9.30.04

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If a Republican had given the same sort of speech about a Democrat that Ted Kennedy gave on Monday at George Washington University thrashing George W. Bush, John Edwards would likely have labeled it "un-American" and Howard Dean would have come out of his undisclosed location to begin shouting again about the flag not belonging to Jerry Falwell. As luck would have it, Kennedy is a Democrat, and as such the "lion of liberalism" is not held to the same standards as the rest of us.

Gone was the terrorism-is-not-a-Republican-or-Democratic-issue rhetoric so popular with liberals anytime someone suggests President Bush may be on the right track with the War on Terror. Kennedy had no qualms about describing the Bush administration's foreign policy as, "a toxic mix of ignorance, arrogance, and stubborn ideology," and accusing Bush himself of being responsible for a "steady downward spiral in our national security."

"I thank God that President Bush was not our President at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis," Kennedy said, expressing a sentiment many likely harbor towards him as well.

MAINSTREAM MEDIA COVERAGE of Kennedy's speech treated it as a reasonable treatise. In an interview on CNN hours later with Judy Woodruff, Kennedy was allowed to repeat all the major points of his speech with only minor challenge. He was not questioned about his angry tone or any of the more absurdist, fanatical rhetoric, which at any rate was conveniently left out of the evening newscasts.

Contrast that with the firestorm that erupted when Dick Cheney suggested that "if we make the wrong choice" on November 2 "then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

"This statement by the vice president of the United States was intended to divide us," John Edwards wailed. "It was calculated to divide us on an issue of safety and security for the American people. It's wrong and it's un-American."

But Cheney's comments seem downright tame when compared to the accusatory, personal broadsides in Kennedy's speech:

"We could have been, and we should have been, much safer than we are today," Kennedy said. "We cannot afford to stay this very dangerous course. This election cannot come too soon. As I've said before, the only thing America has to fear is four more years of George Bush."

Scant weeks after Cheney's much-maligned speech, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said it was his opinion that al Qaeda would prefer Kerry to win the upcoming election. Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller quickly came out to explain that there wasn't "a shred of evidence to indicate that a terrorist attack is more likely under a Bush or Kerry administration." Likewise, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe called Hastert's comments "disgraceful," and declared that there was "no room for this in our political discourse."

There was no sign of either Rockefeller or McAuliffe on television Monday condemning Kennedy's diatribe. Apparently, when Democrats claim an upper hand in the War on Terror, it is simply a calm interpretation of the facts. But when a Republican dares to suggest that President Bush's aggressive policies might be more effective than the "more sensitive" war Kerry promises to wage, well, that is unacceptable. Democrats reserve the right to patriotically dissent any way they like to Bush's foreign policy, but any talk of terrorism by Republicans is exploiting national security for political gain.

BUT KENNEDY WASN'T CONTENT merely to criticize the war in Iraq on the merits and be done with it. He could not stick to policy. The draw of the now-obligatory Bush-the-dolt name calling is too strong for Democrats to resist these days.

"Saddam Hussein may be behind bars, and that's a significant plus for America and the world, as President Bush says," Kennedy said. "But the war in Iraq has clearly distracted us from putting Osama bin Laden behind bars -- and that's a huge minus. The President likes to talk about school reform, so let's try a little third grade math. If you add a significant plus and a huge minus, you don't wind up with a plus."

The senior senator from Massachusetts clearly felt compelled to intertwine a critique of American capitalism with his critique of the war, illustrating the fact that for the far-left the War on Terror is just another obstacle to their globalist/socialist one world government aspirations.

"The Bush Administration tried to carry out the reconstruction with its ideology, instead of an honest strategy," Kennedy said. "Instead of trying seriously to create jobs for Iraqis, they tried to carry out a plan to privatize virtually every part of the Iraqi economy. It's Republican ideology run amuck. It's bad enough that they're trying to do that to the American economy. It's preposterous to try and do it in Iraq."

SO, WHAT EXACTLY WOULD Kennedy like to see in Iraq? The sort of prosperity and individual freedom that a liberalized economy provides, or the tyranny and poverty of a centralized planned economy? His speech Monday suggests the latter:

"For two years, terrorist cells have been spreading like cancer cells," Kennedy said, treading through the now-dreary "root causes" argument one more time. "Any doctor who let that happen would be guilty of malpractice. Is it only coincidence that one of the principal domestic priorities of the Bush Administration is to protect doctors from malpractice lawsuits?"

Huh? Is Kennedy angry about terrorism or tort reform? It's an odd and, frankly, base pairing of issues. It would be like President Bush pushing tax cuts at an event commemorating the events of September 11. There are some issues bigger than arguments over legal policy. One might expect Kennedy, who declared Monday that the fundamental issue of the 2004 election could be summed up as "It's Iraq, stupid," to understand the difference.

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