- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Democrats may be the last of the red-hot romantics, indulging the poetic fantasy of a lost cause. They have a little company from those who imagine that Western-style democracy can thrive in the Islamic world.

Sen. John Kerry, hanging out with other French-speakers at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, is busy between rounds of hot-buttered rum before the crackling fire at the people’s chateau, organizing a filibuster of the Alito nomination.

Mr. Kerry is assisted in this romantic endeavor by the Hon. Ted Kennedy, who was drawn by the prospect of the ski-slope bunnies who are said to congregate around the hot-buttered rum bowl. Well into this morning, Mr. Kerry was busy on the trans-Atlantic telephone, “marshaling support” for his strategy of smothering the small-d democratic process with words, words, words. Dick Durbin agreed to supply a little gas, too.

It’s just as well that Mr. Kerry established his command center in Switzerland. His prospects for stopping Judge Alito are dissolving on this side of the sea. Two more Democrats, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, said they would vote to confirm. The well-meaning Mark Pryor of Arkansas was said to be on the edge, wanting to confirm but afraid his daddy, the former senator, won’t let him.

The Kerry-Kennedy axis was spooked by the demand of the New York Times for a filibuster, which the newspaper concedes would be at best a spectacular falling-on-the-sword ceremony, a demonstration of just how desperate the Democrats are. But the New York Times is eager for the senatorial suttee, to cheer as the senators leap upon the flaming corpse of the failed cause.

“It is hard to imagine a moment when it would be more appropriate for senators to fight for a principle,” the newspaper pleaded. “Even a losing battle would draw the public’s attention to the import of this nomination.”

The plaintive spinster tone of the plea suggests more sorrow at the passing of the old order, when the peasants were expected to salute and tug at a forelock when the ol’ massa passed by, than any expectation of achieving more than a melancholy salute to days gone by, when everyone knew his place and knew better than to step out of it.

There was the passing of an old order in the Middle East as well on a particularly melancholy day. Not even the most practiced diplomat will be any longer able to speak of the “peace process” without suppressing an ironic smile. The process was never about peace, and the marvel is that the civilized world kept up the pretense for as long as it did.

For once the United States and Europe put up a front united by rhetoric, if not necessarily by actual and permanent resolve. President Bush vowed again never to negotiate with Hamas unless it renounces violence. The British foreign minister said Hamas has a clear responsibility to understand that “with democracy goes a rejection of violence.” Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi called the Hamas victory “a very, very, very bad result.” (Verily, three verys is a lot.) In France, where there is little love lost for Jews, the prime minister said Hamas must renounce violence, accept the prospect of peace and recognize Israel before the civilized world can work with a Palestinian government “of any kind.” Even the Swedes sounded nervous, or at least put out.

Condi Rice is off to London this weekend for a meeting of “the Quartet,” senior representatives of the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union, to “evaluate” the election returns and determine what to do about the peace process. But like old cheese, the process long ago turned rancid and stinks like limburger.

The Europeans in particular are fond of indulging the romantic fantasies of a lost cause. Hamas understands how to exploit this. “It’s obvious that the European Union would never countenance funding a regime that continued an armed fight against Israel,” a Spanish member of the European Parliament said last night. Then he added a big but: “But we cannot push for democracy and then deny the result of free and fair elections.” Ah, the romance of standing tall, if only for a little while.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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