- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

Liberal Democratic Party leaders are far more worried about government power than they are about fighting America’s enemies, the founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council said.

In yet another stinging critique of the Democrats’ liberal wing, DLC founder and chief executive Al From said his party could lose this year’s midterm elections if it continues sending a message to voters that it is weak on national security issues in the war on terrorism.

“Despite all that has happened since November 2004, I fear the 2006 national election could turn on whether voters’ unease with the Democrats on national security again trumps their apprehension with the direction Republicans are leading our country,” Mr. From writes in the latest issue of Blueprint, the DLC’s national magazine .

Democratic leaders, playing to their party’s anti-war base, have been stepping up their attacks on the Bush administration’s national security offensive against al Qaeda terrorists, opposing reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act; condemning the government’s warrantless wiretapping program aimed at eavesdropping on conversations between suspected terrorists in this country and abroad; and calling for immediate U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Some DLC members are uncomfortable with the message that this is sending to an electorate that still does not trust the Democrats to defend the country from the terrorist threat, according to the centrist organization’s own polls.

A DLC survey conducted by Democratic pollster Mark Penn found that voters — by a 48 percent to 38 percent margin — trusted Republicans more than Democrats to fight terrorism, and trusted Republicans by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin to defend America’s national security.

Mr. From said the 2004 election turned on several questions in the minds of the voters, one of which was, did Democratic presidential nominee “John Kerry understand that America has enemies in the world who are out to kill us?” Enough voters didn’t think so, and they gave President Bush the margin he needed to win re-election, he said.

Mr. From, the architect of the centrist-leaning agenda, which led to Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 and re-election in 1996, fears that what happened last year could happen again if the party nominates another liberal like Mr. Kerry.

“A quarter-century ago, Democrats were in the political wilderness, largely because their liberal leadership worried more about American power than America’s enemies in the world. To listen to the congressional and party leaders today, it’s evident they haven’t learned a thing,” he said.

“[I]t would be tragic if national security costs Democrats yet another national election. But it could,” Mr. From said.