Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2005/ 20 Mar-Cheshvan 5766

Wesley Pruden

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The dark drama of the living dead | This is where I came into this lousy movie, so it's time to repair to the lobby for popcorn. Maybe the second feature will be a musical with long-legged girls.

The Democrats are trying to transform the war against the terrorists, with the front currently in Iraq, into a cheap imitation of the war in Vietnam. Cindy Sheehan, for those who remember her, was only a pale imitation of Jane Fonda, but maybe with more work, Jack Murtha can be a credible George McGovern.

Maybe the Democrats can twist the decade of the aughts into a reprise of the '60s, warming over fading memories of sex, friendship and revolution in that squalid era to spice the Metamucil, prunes and other good sources of fiber the Gimpy Old Party needs. The party of FDR, Harry Truman and JFK continues its mindless descent into the party of the dead: Tragic days are here again, and it's mourning in America. Manufactured grief — woe, woe, all is woe — has replaced the legacy of the happy warrior. All we have to fear is to fear ourselves. Howard Dean even has the style of a small-town mortician. He needs only a dark suit and to learn the words of the hymns.

The congressional Democrats assigned to find a suitable mourner for the war in Iraq, and find him in a hurry, came up with Jack Murtha, an ex-Marine with a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts from Vietnam. (John Kerry won three, but one came with an asterisk.) Mr. Murtha was inexplicably willing to take on the mission of telling it to the Marines, that their dedication to duty in Iraq is dumb, their courage misplaced, and their sacrifice sucks. A Republican congresswoman from Ohio calls him a coward, but telling all that to the Marines is the stuff of uncommon courage, if not necessarily valor and not much of an honor. Mr. Murtha no doubt knows better. But he bought the plea of lesser men that now is the time to come to the aid of the party.

Death is the new Democratic staple. But for the Clinton years, when Bubba was dead drunk on Love Potion No. 9, Democratic pallbearers have been serving formaldehyde martinis at the wake for 40 years. Jimmy Carter even buttered his little cucumber sandwiches with malaise. When Paul Wellstone of Minnesota was killed in a plane crash on the eve of re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2002, the Democrats wheeled Walter Mondale out of the geriatric ward and demanded that Republicans elect him by acclamation as a tribute to the dearly departed.

Last year, "moms" were recruited for mourning duty (grown-ups have "mothers," babies and boomers have "moms") against George W. The Jersey Girls, young widows of men who died on September 11, directed their rage not at the terrorists who slew their men, but at the man who set out to avenge their husbands' deaths, and for a season became party icons.

Cindy Sheehan was a mom grieving for a son who died a hero's death in Iraq when she was discovered by bored reporters at the very gates of Prairie Chapel Ranch, and was transformed overnight into the star of the Democratic drama of grief as goo-goo. The story line, familiar by now, was that it's not enough to sympathize with a mother (or even a mom), but anyone who does not join her in deploring, despising and denouncing the commander in chief demeans the memory of the heroic dead. Good grief, indeed.

Mother Sheehan's 15 minutes of fame expired with the end of George W.'s summer vacation. Now Jack Murtha steps up to the plate. He is no rogue Marine, as one Republican unkindly suggests, but neither is he the hawk converted on the Damascus road, as the mythmakers of the media obligingly describe him. He has been a skeptic of the war for years, a critic for many months. He wants to bring the boys home now, setting the pitch for the lachrymose Democratic chorus. But he concedes that it won't work. He offers to keep the Marines in the neighborhood, "an over-the-horizon presence," poised to return when the Shi'ites turn fury pent up for decades for the massacre of the hated Sunnis.

In the meantime, he wants the United States "to diplomatically pursue stability and security in Iraq." He so far has not nominated the U.S. ambassador to al Qaeda, who would presumably present his diplomatic credentials to Osama bin Laden.

Unfortunately, the Democratic death drama is not a movie, but a scenario for real life — set not somewhere "over the horizon," but in the here and now where we live, and where the president has to deal with it.

Mr. Murtha's scenario, like the corpses it would guarantee in profusion, stinks.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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