- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

“Conservatives saw the savagery of 9-11 in the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9-11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9-11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the U.S. military against the Taliban. In the wake of 9-11, the liberals believed it was time to submit a petition.” So spoke White House presidential adviser Karl Rove to New York’s Conservative Party last week.

Not surprisingly, some politicians generally classed as liberals took umbrage. New York’s Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that they and most other Democratic elected officials reacted to the September 11, 2001, attacks with outrage and voted for the resolution authorizing military action in Afghanistan. Only one member of Congress, Berkeley left-winger Barbara Lee, voted against it.

In the liberal narrative, the Democratic Party selflessly supported George W. Bush until he unwisely decided to make war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And indeed many of them supported that: Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war resolution in October 2002.

Reading the initial press accounts of Mr. Rove’s speech, I wished he had been more specific about which liberals he was denouncing — except that, as those press accounts failed to mention, he had been. “I’m not joking,” he went on immediately after the above. “Submitting a petition was precisely what Moveon.org, then known as 9-11peace.org did. You may have seen it in the New York Times or The Washington Post, the San Francisco Examiner or the L.A. Times. [Funny, I didn’t see it in the Amarillo Globe News.] It was a petition that ‘implored the powers that be’ to ‘use moderation and restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks against the United States.’ ”

One reason Democrats squawk so much about Mr. Rove’s attack on “liberals” is that he focused on a fundamental split in the Democratic Party — among its politicians and its voters.

On one hand are those who believe this is a fundamentally good country and want success in Iraq. On the other hand, are those who believe this is a fundamentally bad country and more than anything else want to see Mr. Bush fail.

Those who do not think this split is real should consult the responses to pollster Scott Rasmussen’s question last year. About two-thirds of Americans agreed the United States is a fair and decent country. Virtually all Bush voters agreed. Kerry voters were split down the middle.

This is a fundamental split. University and media elites, as Thomas Sowell writes in his forthcoming “Black Rednecks and White Liberals,” promote a version of history in which the United States and the West perpetrate all evils and in which Third World tyrants are assumed to be the voice of virtuous victims. These elites fail to notice that slavery was a universal institution until opposed only by altruists in the West, in late 18th-century Britain and 19th-century America.

It comes naturally to those liberal politicians whose worldview is set by these elites to suppose Saddam’s Iraq was the land of happy kite-flyers portrayed in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” and that, as Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said in a carefully prepared speech, American actions in Guantanamo are comparable to those of the Nazis, Soviets and Khmer Rouge.

It comes naturally to Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean to proclaim Saddam should be presumed innocent pending trial but House Majority Leader Tom DeLay should be jailed for offenses with which he has not even been charged.

Half the Senate Democrats attended the Washington premiere of Mr. Moore’s movie and laughed and cheered its ridicule of Mr. Bush and denunciation of American policy — while Mr. Moore on his Web site proclaimed that “Americans are the stupidest people in the world.”

Now, Democrats want to make Guantanamo an issue when, according to Rasmussen, only 20 percent of Americans believe its prisoners are treated unfairly and only 14 percent believe that treatment is similar to Nazi tactics.

Mr. Durbin has now apologized, sort of. And Democrats watch gleefully as Mr. Bush’s job approval stays stuck below 50 percent. But a party that happily allies itself with the likes of moveon.org and many of whose leading members can no longer distinguish between opposition to an incumbent administration and rooting for U.S. enemies has serious problems. Especially when it is called on again, sooner or later, to govern.

Michael Barone is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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