- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2007

LEWES, Del. — It’s tough out there for a Democratic presidential candidate, and it’s getting tougher. It’s all uphill on the high road to a world without George W. Bush, God, guns and American soldiers.

Maybe the rhetoric of soft men won’t be enough to pacify the thousand-year-old rage of Islamic red-hots, after all. Maybe surrender to the savages is not the route to permanent peace on earth. Harsh lessons, but the realities of the Middle East are finally penetrating even the mushy heads making so much surrender noise. It says so right there in the New York Times, which never misses an opportunity to counsel defeat:

“Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years.”

Nobody but a modern Democratic presidential candidate could take this long to see the obvious, which is clear enough even to a cave man fleeing the city to take the salt waters on the Delaware shore. George W., Tony Blair and now even Gordon Brown have been saying this for weeks. There’s no free lunch for the world’s great superpower. (The free lunch is supplied only to the little nations of the world, leaving them free to spend their full time criticizing the cuisine.)

None of the Democratic worthies has had an epiphany on the Damascus road, but an epiphany on the road to Des Moines and Manchester. Only if you’re the likes of Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson can you continue to peddle the platitudes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards were selling, or trying to, only weeks ago. Hillary was boasting in the spring that only she could do what George W. wouldn’t — end the war, and at once. Sen. Obama promised to sandwich an invasion of Pakistan between tea parties for Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-il; and John Edwards, the Breck girl himself, once vowed that Congress should cut and run if the president wouldn’t. Bill Richardson promised to reprise the rout of the Union army at First Manassas, and get out of Iraq in such a hurry that the army could leave its weapons behind (and Congress its picnic hampers) to get back to Washington before the jihadists have time to say boo.

The candidates are all careful to say the right things to placate the antiwar element that has come to dominate the Democratic base while attempting to still sound humane, responsible and sensitive to the prospect of wholesale death in the name of Allah. Hillary condemns “mass killing.” (Slaughtering people is not nice.) Barack Obama subtly plays the race card, remarking that the United States has, after all, not deployed troops to the Congo or the Sudan. John Edwards says he would be prepared for genocide in Iraq if there’s a whole lot of cleansing going on between Shi’ites and Sunnis.

Hillary isn’t saying much now about her boast that she would do what George W. won’t. Lately she concedes the “vital national security interests in Iraq” and emphasizes her concern that those vital American interests would be in peril if Iraq becomes “a failed state,” open to jihadists who would make Iraq a staging ground for exporting rage and ruin throughout the Middle East. Sen. Obama’s threat to invade Pakistan is presumably the big stick he thinks he’ll reluctantly have to carry if he becomes the 44th president.

Playing “Can You Top This” with the other candidates, each trying to dream up the most imaginative insult to George W., is great fun. Now they won’t even have Karl Rove to kick around, and soon George W. won’t even be here. But campaign fun bears no relationship to governing responsibility. Richard Nixon pilloried Lyndon Johnson for his conduct of the Vietnam war a generation ago, promising that he had “a secret plan” to end it. In the end, Mr. Nixon adopted the war as his own, and it’s remembered more as “Nixon’s war” than “Johnson’s war.” Late educations are always expensive, and reality grades on a steep curve.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.



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