What does the Democratic Party stand for these days? I mean, except for hating Republicans in general and George W. Bush in particular? Don’t know? Well, you’re probably in the company of many Democrats.
According to pollsters, a plurality of those voicing support for the Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, doesn’t support him for his policy positions (assuming that any of his particular positions are discernible). Instead, John Kerry’s biggest single source of support comes from people who are looking for someone who “can beat George W. Bush” or who “is not George W. Bush.”
Playing to their apparent new core constituency, Democrats have been jumping at every chance to attack Bush, no matter how ludicrous the charge, unconscious of how stupid or bad it makes them look. The fiasco of the September 11th Commission is just one of many examples. One of my favorites was back in 2002 after the Enron and WorldCom corruption scandals broke, contributing to depressed stock prices. Democrats, led by Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, and Hillary Clinton, expounded about how these scandals were the fault of George W. Bush because the election of a former CEO, with all his corporate friends, sent a message of “permissiveness” to business leaders. This was an interesting theory given that these accounting scandals had their genesis well prior to November 2000, when these same Democrats were counseling the American people that the chief executive of the United States lying under oath was no big deal. Hillary Clinton told the gathered “moderates” at the Democratic Leadership Council that year that Bush was all talk and no action when it came to corporate ethics. She left to the imagination what additional action she would have liked Bush to take. Greater scrutiny over commodity trading, perhaps.
Trumped up scandal seems to be the Democrats’ weapon of choice these days. John Kerry, who went out of his way to tell the press that he couldn’t comment on charges of Bush being AWOL from the National Guard in the 1970s because he just didn’t have all the facts (in fact he knew, as did much of the press, that the charge was bogus), immediately tried to run with the supposed accusation from Bob Woodward, plastered all over the largely Democratic-allied press, that George Bush had struck a secret deal with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar to lower oil prices just before the 2004 election. It took Bob Woodward (not the professional press) to point out that he neither wrote that, nor intended to imply it. The Washington press corps, it seems, is more interested in trying to get the president to admit that he’s a screw-up than they are in getting their facts straight.
WINNING THE NEXT ELECTION is the de facto Democratic Party platform. Indeed, by no longer heeding the old saying that politics should stop at the water’s edge, the Democratic Party, has lost sight of the bigger picture. Democratic leaders are not just content to argue the merits or strategies of the Iraq war. Instead they accuse the President of the United States of betraying the country (Al Gore), of lying to the world and sending soldiers to their deaths for political gain (Ted Kennedy), and portray the war as a grab for oil or empire (John Kerry). It is hard to believe that any of these supposedly responsible Democratic leaders truly believes that saying such things for world consumption while America is at war serves the national interest.
When trying to score political points, certainly John Kerry has not been careful with his words. He has called our allies in Iraq the “coalition of the coerced and the bribed.” But then he turns around and calls for greater “internationalization” in order to reduce the burden on U.S. forces. How, exactly, he would do this (other than by insulting those who help us) was only recently revealed when he proclaimed that we should send additional troops to Iraq in order to improve security and thus make it more attractive for more foreign governments to send troops. In other words, we should actually increase the burden on U.S. forces in order to get a façade of greater world “cooperation.”
Kerry is, of course, a great believer in creating attractive façades. A campaign insider (as reported by The Prowler in these pages) recently admitted that the Kerry camp is actively polling the American people to discover what they want to hear from Kerry so that the campaign can tailor its upcoming media ads appropriately. The Kerry camp is trying to prevent the Bush team from “defining” John Kerry, but the Kerry people apparently don’t know who Kerry is; they need to take some polls to find out.
Long-time Kerry watchers can point to his deep-seated general disapproval of the acquisition and application of U.S. military power as a “core value.” But as Kerry started to eye a presidential bid, even this aspect of his moral and intellectual being became as confused as his extreme (litmus test for judicial nominees) pro-abortion rights Catholicism.
Kerry voted for the Iraq war when he thought it was politically necessary to do so. When he saw Howard Dean soar to the head of the Democratic primary field on an anti-war message, Kerry changed his tune. Now that he has won the Democratic primary he has “nuanced” again, claiming that though Bush “f***ed it up,” if elected president, even though he has been insisting on handing things over to the U.N., he would see things through in Iraq. As he famously explained, he really wasn’t completely anti-war; he actually voted for the $87 billion to support our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before he voted against it. (Incredibly, weeks before voting against the $87 billion package, Kerry stated that a vote against the package would be “irresponsible.”)
But it is not just Kerry’s positions on big important issues that twist in the wind. In a recent MTV interview the Massachusetts senator proclaimed, “I’m fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there’s a lot of poetry in it.” To further demonstrate his bona fides to the MTV crowd, he continued, “I’m still listening [to rap and hip-hop] because I know it’s a reflection of the street and it’s a reflection of life.” Really. No doubt he also has met with many unnamed rap and hip-hop leaders who have told him that he needs to beat George Bush.
OBVIOUSLY, THE LOSS OF the 2000 presidential election has brought out a lot of anger among the Democratic faithful, and this anger has produced a number of insanities in addition to John Kerry’s Iraq policy(ies) and his professed musical tastes — just look what happened to Al Gore. But the downward spiral of Democratic politics goes back well before 2000.
Even many of Bill Clinton’s supporters admitted that he lacked “core convictions.” He was always ready to make stunning political flip-flops-as he did with the welfare reform issue-when he saw it as politically advantageous to do so. He was the model of doing whatever it took and saying whatever he needed to, to retain power. And it worked. By virtue of having served two terms (something no Democrat had done since FDR), the president who “felt our pain” became the model for the “successful” Democratic president. And Democrats are still trying to recapture the Clinton “magic.”
Al Gore wasn’t quite as good at re-creating himself with faked sincerity and faked convictions. But he tried. His tearful speech about how his sister died because of tobacco was classic. His sister, of course, had died prior to his first presidential bid in which he campaigned in tobacco states as a proud supporter of tobacco farmers. Now the Democratic standard bearer is, perhaps, the biggest phony of them all. Bill Clinton’s political legacy has turned out to be turning the Democratic Party, at least at the national level, into a party without a soul.
Unfortunately for those who used to be known as “centrist” Democrats — people like Joe Lieberman and John Breaux — to the extent the Democratic Party may still have a soul, it lies with the Deaniacs whose hatred of Bush is augmented by a dogged enthusiasm for European socialism and neutered American foreign policy. If that is the future of the Democratic Party, it is not a bright one.