Twenty-one years ago, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the former Democrat appointed the United States ambassador to the United Nations by President Reagan, denounced the “San Francisco Democrats” in a landmark speech to the Republican National Convention. Mrs. Kirkpatrick was referring to the strident tone with which Democrats attacked Mr. Reagan’s foreign policy — in particular his efforts to rebuild the American military and to defeat Communism in Central America — at their convention in San Francisco one month earlier, where they selected former Vice President Walter Mondale as their party’s standardbearer in the 1984 presidential election.
The foreign-policy McGovernism critiqued by Mrs. Kirkpatrick should have become anathema after Mr. Reagan was re-elected in a 49-state landslide that November. But today, slightly over two decades later, prominent Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have essentially adapted the old anti-anti-Communism to the war against Islamofascism in Iraq.
The positive news is that the tedious political bloviating about “exit strategies” (which consist of finding a way to abandon the Iraqi people to the jihadists while pretending that we are behaving honorably) may have begun to spark a political backlash: Democrats who understand that this country will be damaged if we lose in Iraq, and who as a matter of principle, want nothing to do with San Francisco Democrats like Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Dean and MoveOn.org, are beginning to speak out against the left-wing ideologues who dominate the party’s approach to foreign-policy issues. The most prominent and heroic of these Democrats is Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut (the modern-day version of Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington, who spent the final decades of his life tangling with the McGovernite wing of the Democratic Party on foreign-policy issues.) They also include Mrs. Pelosi’s deputy, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Mr. Hoyer — who has made little secret of his disdain for Mrs. Pelosi’s cut-and-run approach in Iraq — said that leaving before Iraqi security forces are ready to protect their country would be tantamount to surrender.
There appears to be an even larger body of Democrats who understand that, whatever their true feelings about President Bush and pulling the plug on the Iraqi people, politicians who associate themselves with the Pelosi-Dean position may be courting political disaster. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel has said privately that Mrs. Pelosi’s stance could backfire on the Democrats. The Washington Post on Wednesday quoted a Democratic strategist as stating that the party’s antiwar stance is jeopardizing the party’s efforts to regain control of the house. “Plenty of Democrats are cringing” at Mrs. Pelosi’s high-profile advocacy of a withdrawal because she is backing a position that most Americans do not support, the paper reported.
In the coming weeks, the administration needs to remind people of the political chasm that separates the Nancy Pelosi/Howard Dean wing of the party from the Joe Lieberman/Steny Hoyer Democrats.