- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

On issues of war and peace, it matters where a political party stands. In the American republic, the people’s representatives will cast no more important vote than the one authorizing the waging of war. This was especially the case with the use-of-force resolution Congress considered in October, less than four weeks before congressional elections, when, for the first time in U.S. history, overall majorities in both bodies of Congress authorized the use of military force for a pre-emptive attack.

Properly assessing a political party’s position on such a weighty matter is clearly one of the most important obligations of any newspaper. That is why an assertion on May 26 by New York reporter Adam Clymer in a lengthy postwar assessment of the Democratic Party was disappointingly inaccurate. “The public strongly prefers Republicans on national defense,” Mr. Clymer rightly noted, erroneously adding, “and even though most Democrats in Congress backed the war on Iraq, at least a third of the rank and file was unhappy with it.” In fact, when they were presented with what they clearly understood would be their only opportunity to express their definitive views in the form of an up-or-down vote on the use of force against Iraq, most Democrats in Congress actually opposed the war.

The use-of-force resolution could not have been more explicit. “The president is authorized to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate,” the resolution declared.

The fact that Sens. Tom Daschle, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, John Kerry — as well as another presidential aspirant, then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt — all supported the use-of-force resolution reinforced the misperception that “most Democrats” backed the war. And now the New York Times has endorsed that wrong view.

More than 60 percent of House Democrats opposed the use-of-force resolution (126-81). Altogether, 147 congressional Democrats opposed the resolution, and 110 supported it.

“Most Democrats in Congress” may well be extremely grateful to the New York Times for portraying them as supporters of the war. It’s just too bad that the so-called paper of record could not have more accurately reported the position of “most Democrats in Congress” when it really mattered.

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