The Current Crisis

The Party of War Heroes

How the hucksters have reconfigured the Democratic Party.

By 2.4.04

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WASHINGTON -- The week has witnessed the departure from the Democratic presidential race of the Party's last authentic man competing for the nomination, Senator Joe Lieberman. The remaining candidates are all hucksters. They are the masters of such lines as "Ah…let me clarify what I said the other day" and "Oh, allow me to apologize to my distinguished colleague" and "Well, what I really meant to say was…." From frontrunner Kerry to bottom-of-the-heap Sharpton (and a well-upholstered bottom it is), each remaining candidate lives in fear of what a Lexis-Nexis search might reveal about his past policies and euphuisms.

Lieberman had few such worries. He campaigned as a gentleman, making no cheap shots and filing no fibs. Moreover, if one compares his positions to the positions taken by the great Democratic presidents, proceeding from Roosevelt to Kennedy and after whom the field pretty much petered out into the ribaldry of Clinton, one will note that Lieberman was in the great tradition. Recall his heart-felt lament in 1998 over the Boy President's perjury. Lieberman in 2004 stood for a strong foreign policy against enemies who are today every bit as treacherous and diabolical as the Nazis and the Communists once were. His domestic programs were not the other candidates' sleight-of-hand, though they accepted larger government involvement than economic growth can sustain. Actually, in fiscal terms his policies were probably a bit more conservative than Roosevelt's or Truman's. At any rate, they were forthright and arguable.

It tells us a great deal about how the passions of Democratic primary voters have been manipulated by the hucksters that so many of them would ignore the legitimate heir to the modern Democratic Party's best instincts. Now the Democratic primary voters are left with the snake oil salesmen. Lieberman's only lapse came when in withdrawing he paid brief respect to the phony candidacy of the Rev. Al Sharpton, a fraud whose full buffoonish mountebankry could not have been dreamed up by the late comic genius W. C. Fields. That black voters in South Carolina only gave him 18% of their vote is a tribute to their good sense and to the Democratic candidates' underestimation of black Democrats' essential prudence. No candidate should curry the favor of a Sharpton.

Now it is back to the Democratic big four, John Kerry, John Edwards, Dr. Howard Dean and the accident-prone General Wesley Clark. What strikes you as most amazing about these weird fellows, aside from the fact that they have to keep apologizing to each other and clarifying the record and explaining what they really meant after each rhetorical excess? Well, for me there are many amazing things, but one that surely has to be remarked on is that they have reconfigured the Democratic Party into the party of war heroes. For over three decades these Democrats have inhabited the party that sided with the doves. It is the party that cut back our military and our intelligence agencies in fits of bogus moral indignation similar to the bogus moral indignation they display today about the war in Iraq.

Rather than being the party that cut back the military and ended human intelligence gathering in the 1970s, today's Democratic Party is…what is the term Senator John Pierre Kerry employs? Is it his "band of brothers"? Why not "brothers and sisters"? Does Senator Kerry have a bias against women in combat? Put the question to him, Senator Edwards. Doubtless he will apologize and issue a clarification.

There the surviving Democratic candidates stand, calling the present commander in chief names, the most poisonous being "moral coward" and "deserter." The first epithet came from former Vice President Al Gore, the Vietnam veteran whose military service in Vietnam covered three desks and at least one R&R. The second charge originated with the Democrats' modern-day Leni Riefenstahl, to wit, Michael Moore, holder of two Congressional Medals of Honor, the Legion of Honor, the Ben & Jerry's Peace Prize, and the Nobel Prize for Cinematography. It was endorsed by General Clark, the Hero of Kosovo and the only four-star general I can think of who was removed from his post for what his superior called "integrity and character issues." It was also endorsed by Senator Kerry, the highly-decorated Vietnam War hero who returned from Vietnam to march with the protesters summoned by Jane Fonda against our soldiers in the field. General George S. Patton III, a Vietnam combat general, accused him of actions that had "given aid and comfort to the enemy."

At this point in the campaign we have not yet heard of the military heroics of Dr. Howard Dean, but I would not be surprised to hear that he is a Pearl Harbor survivor and veteran of the charge up San Juan Hill. And what august military honors has Senator Edwards? Possibly he was an Eagle Scout. I also await hearing of DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe's achievements. He now says that forty years ago the President was "AWOL." Where was McAuliffe? Possibly he was incarcerated just down the hall in the Hanoi Hilton with Senator John McCain.

These Democrats can say almost anything, until the Lexis-Nexis search is done. Then come the apologies. The other day radio host Sean Hannity dredged up transcripts of Senator Kerry insisting back in 1992 that Vietnam service was ancient history. Of course he was defending Bill Clinton, who was a draft dodger. Through all the years of his presidency it did not matter. Now I expect McAuliffe to discover that Clinton served at 1st Bull Run -- the term somehow fits.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.