Jewish World Review Sept. 30, 2002 / 24 Tishrei, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Al Gore's speech attacking Bush over Iraq is the absolute low point in his increasingly bad political instincts. Challenging Bush on terror is like going after Clinton on the economy or Reagan on taxes.
Only in the past week have Democratic Party leaders come to grasp the magnitude of their error in challenging Bush on Iraq so close to the fall midterm elections. As the tracking polls have come in during the past 10 days, party leaders have realized that they have allowed Bush to change the subject from the economy and corporate greed to Iraq, with potentially lethal consequences for them in the congressional elections. But Gore didn't get the message.
When the key Senate races in Missouri and Minnesota revealed Democratic incumbents neck and neck with GOP challengers and national tracking polls showed a Republican edge in congressional balloting, the Democratic leaders began to understand the mistake they made in even raising the topic of Iraq three months before an election.
As the party scrambles to recover from its worst mistake since the Hillary Clinton health-care fiasco of 1994, Bush, Saddam and the Democrats are locked in an interesting triangle where the actions of each affect the other.
Can the Democrats reposition themselves before November? Not with Gore around. Anyway, the very nature of the congressional debate that will absorb the nation's attention in the weeks before the voting will make it very difficult.
Day after day, Republicans will rise to defend action against Iraq and Democrats will express doubts. Driven by the wails of their liberal constituents, the likes of liberal Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) will raise objections and reinforce the concerns of voters about Democrats' willingness to back action against Saddam.
And Saddam himself will wind up boosting Bush politically: If Saddam sneezes, the Democrats will get pneumonia.
The more the Iraqi dictator roars against the legitimacy of the U.S.-led invasion of his country, the more he drives the topic to the top of the national agenda - exactly what Bush wants and needs politically.
But should Saddam adopt the opposite tactic and continue to proffer concessions and appear more flexible on the inspections issue, he'll still drive a nail into the Democratic chances in November. Why? Because U.S. liberals will take up his cause and pressure their party to take a self-destructive tack in the leadup to the fall elections.
The American Left cannot help itself. It has learned the lesson of Vietnam; since then (as Tallyrand said of Louis XVIII), it has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Whenever war is discussed, the vision of bodies on a useless battlefield looms before them like a recurring nightmare.
The more Saddam offers concessions, the more he will catalyze liberals' angst and lead them to demand that their party fight the good fight against foreign intervention, however popular and however necessary the invasion of Iraq may be.
After all, why did the Democrats, led by the disastrous duo of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, demand that Bush provide more justification for the Iraqi invasion? That request catalyzed the collapse of the Democrats' field position as the fall elections loomed. Did the ex-presidents not realize that by articulating such a request, they were inviting precisely the dialogue that Democrats had most reason to fear?
One has to assume that Carter and Clinton were lured to take that position by the Democratic left.
The way to get a Democrat to destroy his own chances of
winning is to get his liberal constituency hot and angry and
lead it to demand that its representatives stand up and be
counted for a liberal, unpopular position. It was just such a
quandary that led Mike Dukakis into his famous opposition
to the death penalty in the 1988 election and that enticed
Hillary ever leftward on health care in 1994.
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