- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 29, 2002

Democrats are once again divided over whether to go to war against Iraq as Congress prepares to vote on the politically pivotal national security issue that Republicans think will give them the edge in this year's midterm elections.
But Democratic officials and activists say the split thus far appears to be lopsided, with more Democrats favoring a resolution generally along the lines that President Bush is seeking to take military action against Iraq to destroy its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. Some Democrats, such as Sens. Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, both of whom are facing tough election challengers, have become Mr. Bush's biggest allies in the fight.
"There will probably be a majority of Democrats for a resolution," said Amy Isaacs, national director of Americans for Democratic Action, one of the party's oldest liberal lobbying groups, which flatly "opposes any pre-emptive military action against Iraq."
"One of the reasons why so many Democrats will be for it is we're little more than five weeks away from the election and no one wants to be accused of being unpatriotic," Mrs. Isaacs said.
"There is a huge tradition in this country of not questioning the president in a time of war or an impending war, and a lot of what we're seeing reflects that," she said.
Former Vice President Al Gore's opposition to unilateral U.S. military action to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein joined Friday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts has given anti-war Democrats their party's strongest political voice on the issue. Still, Mr. Gore remains virtually alone among all the other Democratic presidential contenders and party leaders who are willing to give Mr. Bush the congressional approval he is seeking, but want it to be more specific in its goals and clearer in its rationale.
Not only is former President Clinton supporting Mr. Bush on this issue, so is Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut who was Mr. Gore's running-mate in the 2000 presidential election. Mr. Lieberman, who strongly backs a U.S. military attack on Iraq, has been sending signals lately that he may run for president, whether Mr. Gore runs or not.
Among Mr. Gore's other possible Democratic rivals in 2004, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and John Kerry of Massachusetts have staked out positions supporting military action to deal with Saddam. Even Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, also a possible candidate for president, who bitterly accused Mr. Bush last week of politicizing the war issue, is working with the White House to fashion resolution language that he can accept.
Democrats are reluctant to talk on the record about Mr. Gore's motives in opposing military action against Iraq, but one Democratic congressional adviser said that the former vice president was making a "big political gamble" by isolating himself from much of the party on a major national defense issue that has strong public support.
While Mr. Gore has joined forces with the party's hard-line liberal wing on Iraq, including the Congressional Black Caucus, he has alienated the centrist-leaning Democratic Leadership Council, which fears the party's presidential prospects will be irreparably hurt if it does not stake out a strong, credible stand on national security issues.
"Not surprisingly, we support action by Congress to authorize the president to use military action against Iraq to force compliance with United Nations resolutions, whether or not the U.N. Security Council can overcome veto threats and authorize military action on its own," the DLC said last week.
Virtually all of the party's presidential hopefuls addressed the DLC's annual conference in New York this summer except for Mr. Gore, even though he was in Manhattan at the time of its meeting.
The White House believes that once agreement is reached on resolution language that gives Mr. Bush the unambiguous approval he wants, "the vote won't be close," an administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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