WASHINGTON — I see that the convalescing Bill Clinton is about to leave his Chappaqua infirmary to hit the campaign trail for Democratic presidential candidate, Jean-François Kerry. Reportedly the reinforcements will arrive next week. Most likely the ex-Boy President will not hit the campaign trail too thunderously. Having recently undergone quadruple bypass surgery, he remains a bit tender. But he will put in a good word for the whole Democratic ticket that now strains to save America from the Bush Madness. You know the Democrats’ line: an economy reminiscent of Herbert Hoover’s, the Bible Belt threatening our easy-going hedonism, Bush’s legions brutalizing all the peace-loving peoples of the Middle East.
Boy Clinton with characteristic obliquity has spoken from both sides of his mouth on the war in Iraq, but those of us who follow his cavortings fastidiously recall that he and his lovely wife Bruno were the first Democrats to say that ousting Saddam was a “diversion” from the war on terror. Thus began one of the liberal Democrats’ favorite dodges from taking resolute action against America’s enemies, to wit, they call out their intellectualoids to bog us down in tendentious arguments about the nature of our enemies, their whereabouts, their true intentions, and the proper way to pacify those enemies. Both the Clintons and Senator Kerry would deal with them ferociously though at the United Nations, the Hague, or why not the Cannes Film Festival?
My guess is that Clinton will not get terribly detailed in his criticism of President George W. Bush’s war on terror or even his war in Iraq. His record on terror is not terribly good.
In his mammoth autobiography My Life (the wags call it My Lies) Clinton heaves off precisely one paragraph on airport security during his Administration, though he had ample warning that threats were afoot similar to the assault that came on September 11, 2001. For instance, on December 4, 1998, according to The 9/11 Commission Report, the President received a Presidential Daily Brief whose headline read: “Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack U.S. Aircraft and Other Attacks.” Last July 23 the New York Post noted chillingly that the December 4 briefing “cited information indicating that bin Ladin and his allies were preparing an aircraft hijacking and other attacks in the United States to free three jailed Arabs, including the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef, and ‘Blind Sheik’ Omar Abdel-Rahman.” The Playboy President did nothing.
The first World Trade Center Bombing was but the first of a series of terrorist provocations that failed to sober up the Boy President. There were also the attacks on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the American embassies in Africa, and the USS Cole. Nor did he do much to enforce U.N. sanctions against Saddam.
Foreign policy and American national security are the most important issues in Campaign 2004. Since September 11, 2001, they have been the most important issues in the country. A former draft dodger and a Vietnam War resister are not very compelling figures in debating those issues. There are numerous reasons why Senator Kerry, though starting with a large base in the Democratic Party, has not been able to move ahead in this race. But the fundamental reason is that he is oblivious to the concern his fellow Americans have about terror and national security. Kerry is a fantasist, aloof in a narcissistic cloud. The American people perceive that there is something wrong with him.
At some point Democratic leaders are going to have to ask themselves how they get stuck year after year with such improbable presidential candidates. In 1992 they had a draft dodger with more skeletons in his closet than a grave robber. In 2000 they had another of their fantasists who could not beat a little-known Republican governor despite his Administration’s claims to peace and prosperity. This time around they have a candidate who is so lacking in judgment as to have based much of his campaign on his behavior of 35 years ago, behavior that he should have recognized as at best controversial. How could Kerry have been so clueless as to have thought that veterans and other advocates of strong defense would elect him in time of war? Nothing in his record reveals him as a strong leader. In fact he was a mere also-ran until Howard Dean self-destructed.
The Democratic opponent slipping behind in the polls today is neither a George McGovern from 1972 nor a John F. Kennedy fighting the Cold War. He is at one with the Draft Dodger of 1992, though without the charm.