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EDITORIAL: Code red, with embarrassment

There’s a shortage of anti-war outrage on the left

- - Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's not easy being a Democrat on the eve of deconstruction. Some of the liberals haven't figured out what to think or say about President Obama and his determination to lob missiles into the men's room at Syrian command headquarters. When George W. Bush took the White House to his Prairie Chapel Ranch near Crawford, Texas, there was always Cindy Sheehan, surrounded by reporters and photographers, protesting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She became the left's pet rock.

She packed up and left Texas long ago, and hasn't camped outside the White House or any of the Massachusetts mansions where President Obama spends his vacations. She may be suffering a shortage of outrage, or it may be that her outrage has a new target. She wants to run for governor of California to depose Gov. Jerry Brown because he's not liberal enough.

But a handful of true unbelievers are sticking to their principles. Medea Benjamin, a founder of Code Pink, the women's anti-war coven, scheduled "oppose the war" vigils for Monday, but she doesn't expect much of a crowd. "We've been protesting Obama's foreign policy for years now," Ms. Benjamin said the other day at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "but we can't get the same numbers because the people who would have been yelling and screaming about this stuff under Bush are quiet under Obama."

She and several of her colleagues made a point of sitting behind Secretary of State John F. Kerry when he argued the administration's case to the lawmakers, careful to get in good camera range. Some of them held up hands painted red, commemorating the Syrian blood that would be on American hands if Congress authorizes Mr. Obama's missile strikes. Recruiting protesters has been difficult because stalwart liberal hearts just aren't that much into protest. "We lost a lot of people who didn't like us criticizing Obama," says Ms. Benjamin.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting delegate in the House, says if the president wins congressional approval "it will be because of the loyalty of Democrats. They just don't want to see him shamed and humiliated on the national scene. At the moment, that's the only reason I would vote for it, if I could vote on it."

Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, once a dove and now a provisional hawk, put aside the memory of past votes against intervention in Iraq and supports missiles against Syria. "I've got to be true to my conscience," he told a radio interviewer. Others have been shopping at the conscience store, too. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts voted "present" when the use-of-force resolution was put before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. The resolution is thought likely to pass the Senate, but prospects in the House are less certain.

That anguishes MSNBC's Chris Matthews, still struggling against Tingly Leg Syndrome, who says Mr. Obama has put his party in a "wicked position" in the House because most Republicans are likely to vote no, and the president will need all the Democrats he can find. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is "going to have to come in with a supermajority of Democrats [in the House] to support their Democratic president," Mr. Matthews says. "They're going to have to vote for it to save the president's hide. That's a bad position to put your party in." The nation, too, if that counts in the calculation.