WASHINGTON — Well, it is a very pleasant time to be in Washington. Senators and representatives alike have vacated the premises. Most have headed off to ply their trade on their constituents. The off-year elections are approaching, and most of our federal legislators want another stint at what the Democrats call “public service.” That is a euphemism for what all reasonable observers call the “public trough.”
The Democrats are in a sunny mood. As they see it we are losing in Iraq. We are losing the war on terror. And Wal-Mart just posted a quarterly earnings decline. All of this means, so the Democrats believe, that they will sweep the Senate and the House this fall. Their solution to the war in Iraq and to the war on terror is: “Come Home America.” They want our troops out of Iraq. They advocate fighting the war on terror closer to home. As Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton puts it, “We still have not done what we need to do to protect our ports, our borders, our bridges, our transit systems, our rail lines — it’s a long list.” So, “Come Home America.” That is the refrain last made famous by Senator Clinton’s presidential candidate in 1972, Senator George McGovern. She really has not changed all that much since then, nor have the rest of the Democrats.
President George W. Bush wants us to fight our wars on foreign soil. Most Americans agree. According to the recent Newsweek poll, 55 percent of the citizenry favor the way he is handling the war on terror and homeland security, an improvement of 11 percent over the last two months. Doubtless, Americans are not as approving of the way he has handled the war in Iraq, but their major concern is terrorism, according to a CBS News poll conducted after the British broke up that terror ring last week. Now the American electorate is going to have the next three months to weigh the merits of the Democratic alternative to the President’s approach to national security. My guess is that the electorate will again reject “Come Home America.”
In an off-year election the President’s party is supposed to suffer losses on Capitol Hill. It is indicative of the dreadful condition of the Democrats that the President’s party actually gained seats in the last off-year election. Surely this time the Republicans will lose seats, but I predict that they will still hang on to both houses.
The first reason for this is that the President’s insight that it is best to fight terrorists in foreign lands rather than to wait for them to arrive here is more appealing to Americans than the Democrats’ “Come Home America” strategy. Most Americans also understand that to thwart another 9/11 the government is going to have to surveil bank transactions, communications, and travel. Frankly, I think most Americans would also approve of profiling, and in fact I suspect our government will be profiling rather soon. The only outrage I have heard of in response to news reports of government surveillance has come from journalists, the ACLU, and the Democratic leadership, which is to say the Democratic leadership and its agents.
This brings us to the second reason that the Republicans will maintain both houses this fall. The Democrats have no appealing alternative to the Republicans. This is true on a whole range of matters from national security to the war on terror to the economy. The Democrats have been shrieking about the economy for six years, six years that have mainly been years of economic growth. Their alternative is to raise taxes, which surely is an alternative to growth. Yet my guess is that most Americans prefer growth.
A year or more ago the complaint heard most often about the Democratic Party was that it had not settled on a message. That was claptrap then and it is claptrap now. The Democrats have a message, but the message has no resonance beyond the Democratic Party. Their message is “Come Home America.” Polls show Americans dissatisfied with the condition of the country; but when they have to choose between a president who wants to fight our enemies abroad and the Democrats, most Americans will choose the Republicans. All the criticism from the Democrats over our war in Iraq and our war on terror amounts to being what an earlier president chided his war critics as, to wit: “Back Seat Drivers.” The President was Franklin D. Roosevelt
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute. His most recent book is Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House (Regnery Publishing).