Never again should any Democrat, especially Hillary Clinton, be permitted to use the term "politics of personal destruction" with impunity. That snicker that rolls out of liberal quarters when President Bush talks about the promotion of democracy save it for the senator from New York and her partisan colleagues.
Let's be clear: Everyone has the right to question reports of progress from Baghdad and the wisdom of maintaining a vast military commitment to Iraq. If you're a U.S. senator who voted "with conviction" to go to war in Iraq, it might even be said that you have an obligation to do so.
What no one has the right to do is impugn the loyalty of a decorated military commander, especially a U.S. senator who praised his leadership and expertise at his confirmation hearing nine months ago. You can challenge his numbers, dispute his methodology and debate his recommendations in the toughest terms. What common decency suggests you cannot do is attack his integrity.
Democrats in Congress have gotten quite adept at deflecting any criticism, no matter how pertinent and fact-based, as an attack on their patriotism. Point out the inconsistencies of their Iraq war stances or their voting records on national security legislation, and you'll get tarnished with the faux protestation that you're somehow questioning their patriotism.
In the case of Gen. David Petraeus, the attack on his patriotism is very real. Here is the U.S. military oath for commissioned officers:
"I ... do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me G-d."
If, as MoveOn.org suggests, Petraeus is betraying the American people about Iraq, he's not supporting and defending the Constitution. If his Senate testimony, as Clinton told him, "requires the willing suspension of disbelief," then he is not bearing true faith and allegiance. Cooking the books is a treacherous that is, treasonous act.
Challenged by the Giuliani campaign to repudiate the MoveOn.org ad and apologize for the insult to Petraeus, Clinton said ... nothing. A campaign spokesman instead attacked Giuliani for distorting Clinton's record. Naturally. Among the Democratic presidential hopefuls, only Sen. Joe Biden was able to mete out a mild rebuke.
A group calling itself Veterans for Trust sent a letter to Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, last week asking him to return $163,000 in campaign donations he received from MoveOn.org. Next to Ned Lamont, who was unsuccessful in his bid to unseat Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut, Rodriguez was the largest beneficiary of MoveOn.org's support during the 2006 election cycle.
Rodriguez's response? Nothing.
Back in 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton had the wisdom to distance himself from some of the extremists in his party. Hip-hop artist Sister Souljah had commented about the Los Angeles riots, "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?"
Clinton repudiated the statement to the Rainbow Coalition, no less and a new term entered the political lexicon: the Sister Souljah moment.
The Sister Souljah moment helped define Bill Clinton as the leader of a new, centrist, even reformist Democratic Party that had finally gotten past the hangover of its post-Vietnam-era, left-wing binge. A major part of that bender from the '70s was hostility to men and women in uniform, the higher the rank, the more virulent the hostility.
The absence of a Move- On.org moment defines Hillary Clinton and her colleagues as leaders of an old, marginal, especially opportunistic Democratic Party in thrall of extremists who have repackaged their contemptuous attitude toward the military in the digital era. The politics of personal destruction evidently isn't such a bad thing when it's your opponents in uniform who are being destroyed.