- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Four of the contenders for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination find themselves at odds with many of the party's rank-and-file members, who continue to express a feeling that a case has not been made for American action in Iraq.
After Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said diplomatic alternatives haven't been exhausted, and a host of Democrats continued to demand more inspections and full U.N. support before going to war.
"I believe it's good they've come forward with the information. They should have done it a long time ago. Give it to the inspectors and let the inspectors go out and decide," said Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat.
That stands in contrast to the four Capitol Hill Democrats actively seeking the presidential nomination: Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.
All four said Mr. Powell's speech made the case that the United Nations must act or that the United States should act alone.
For his part, Mr. Kerry said his decision was about the facts, not politics.
"It's about doing what's right for our country," Mr. Kerry said. "I'm worried about the national security of our nation and doing what's correct.
"I want the president to continue to work through the multilateral structure, and I'd like to see us get the support of other countries, but I've always recognized that you need to face up to the threat of weapons of mass destruction."
This split weighs on Democrats, who acknowledge that President Bush's successful campaign last year on national security was a key reason they lost control of the Senate in November's elections. Some privately say the damage was done when Mr. McDermott and two other House Democrats visited Baghdad last fall to conduct their own investigation.
Several Democrats have publicly encouraged the party to increase its effort to win voter confidence on national-security issues.
Mrs. Pelosi said yesterday that there's nothing wrong with divergent views on the case for war.
"This is a matter of conscience for each and every member to make his or her own decision on," she said.
"Placing our young men and women in harm's way is a very, very serious responsibility. Everyone has to answer to his or her own conscience about it, and there has never been a party position on it."
The split appeared last year when Congress authorized the president to use force to disarm Iraq. More than half of House Democrats, 126, voted against the resolution, as did 21 Senate Democrats. The four presidential hopefuls in Congress all voted for the resolution, as did 81 House Democrats.
House Republicans overwhelmingly supported the resolution 215 to 6, and 48 of 49 Senate Republicans voted for it.
The presidential hopefuls aren't unanimous in support of action. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said he is not convinced Iraq is an imminent threat to U.S. security.
Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute and one of those who has called on fellow Democrats to toughen up on national-security issues, said the four may help the Democratic Party's image.
"That's an opportunity for the Democratic candidates to dramatize their break with a streak of pacifism on the left and their embrace of the Democratic Party's tradition of muscular internationalism," he said.
"I think these and other leading Dems have played a responsible role. They helped nudged this administration toward the right way to confront Saddam toward building broader international coalitions and seeking the backing of the United Nations."
He also said the party may be less anti-war than perceived. "The real question there is: What do rank-and-file Democrats believe? I wouldn't want to make the assumption they are overwhelmingly opposed to war. I don't think that's true," he said.
Republicans said the evidence finally became so strong that the four candidates had to come out strongly.
"You look at them as jurors, or witnesses. They were generally hostile witnesses prior to all of this, and they were jurors that watched the presentation by Secretary Powell, and they realized this was a convincing case," said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"It even convinced them when they have a base of Democrats that folks are going for, very strong anti-war."
Democrats have begun to highlight what they say is administration shortcomings in other foreign-policy areas, such as the Bush administration's failure to detail exactly what a war will entail and the commitments the United States and its troops will be making.
"There are several questions: How long will we stay, what will be the role of the United States once Saddam is deposed, and what involvement can we expect from the international community?" said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Democrats also began a new round of criticism for the way the administration has responded to the situation in North Korea, which just announced it will resume operations at a nuclear reactor that could produce material for building atomic weapons.
In a floor speech yesterday, Mr. Daschle called that an "even more ominous development regarding weapons of mass destruction," and Mr. Lieberman called the Bush administration's current efforts in regard to North Korea a "failed policy." Mr. Kerry called the administration's policy "fuzzy."

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