- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

“This is just to cover Bush’s [rear] so he doesn’t have to answer questions” about things in Iraq, said California Rep. Pete Stark, second-ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. “This insurgency is such a confused mess that one person, dead or alive at this point, is hardly significant today,” said Washington Rep. Jim McDermott, formerly the lead Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. The deceased, said Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a candidate for the 2004 presidential nomination, was a small part of “a growing anti-American insurgency.” He said the United States should get out of Iraq. “We’re there for all the wrong reasons.”

Such was the reaction of the Democratic Party’s left wing to the killing of al Qaeda terrorist Abu Masab Zarqawi in Iraq. It was not the dominant note sounded by Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry all hailed the death of Zarqawi in unequivocal terms. And if Democrats also made the point his death probably won’t end the violence in Iraq, they only echoed what George W. Bush said.

Nevertheless the Stark-McDermott-Kucinich reaction, echoed and amplified, often scatologically, by dozens of commenters on the popular dailykos.com and myDD.com left-wing Web sites, tells us something disturbing about the Democratic Party — and provides a clue why Democrats were unable to eke out a win in last week’s special congressional election in the 50th Congressional District of California.

It comes down to this: A substantial part of the Democratic Party, some of its politicians and many of its loudest supporters do not want America to succeed in Iraq. So vitriolic and all-consuming is their hatred for Mr. Bush that they skip right over the worthy goals we have been, with some considerable success, seeking there — a democratic government, with guaranteed liberties for all, a vibrant free economy, respect for women — and call this a war for oil, or for Halliburton.

Successes are discounted, setbacks are trumpeted, the level of American casualties is treated as if comparable to those in Vietnam or World War II. Allegations of American misdeeds are repeated over and over; the work of reconstruction and aid of American military personnel and civilians is ignored.

In all this, they have been aided and abetted by large elements of the press. The struggle in Iraq has been portrayed as a story of endless and increasing violence. Stories of success and heroism tend to go unreported. Reporters in Iraq deserve respect for their courage — this has been an unusually deadly war for journalists, largely because they have been targeted by the terrorists. But unfortunately they and the Bush administration have not done a good job of letting us know that last pertinent fact.

We are in an asymmetrical struggle with vicious enemies who slaughter civilians and bystanders and journalists with no regard for the laws of war. But too often we and our enemies are portrayed as moral equivalents. One or two cases of American misconduct are found equal in the balance to a consistent and premeditated campaign of barbarism.

All this does not go unnoticed by America’s voters. The persistence of violence in Iraq has done grave damage to Mr. Bush’s job rating, and polls show his fellow Republicans are in trouble. Yet when people actually vote, those numbers don’t seem to translate into gains for the Democrats. In 2004, John Kerry got 44 percent of the votes in the 50th district of California. In the April 2006 special primary, Democrat Francine Busby got 44 percent of the votes there. In the runoff last week, she got 45 percent and lost to Republican Brian Bilbray.

The angry Democratic left set the tone for the 2003-04 campaign for the party’s presidential nomination, and John Kerry hoped it would produce a surge in turnout in November 2004. It did: Mr. Kerry got 16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore. But George W. Bush got 23 percent more popular votes in 2004 than in 2000.

In California’s 50th, both parties made mammoth turnout efforts, but the balance of turnout and of opinion seems to have remained the same, though Democrats had a seriously contested primary for governor and Republicans didn’t. The angry Democratic left and its aiders and abettors in the press seem to have succeeded in souring public opinion, but they haven’t produced victory margins for the Democrats. Maybe they’re doing just the opposite.

Michael Barone is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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