Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Can The Democrats Make Themselves Look Tough?

Jeffrey Goldberg has an article in this week's New Yorker asking whether Democrats can make themselves look tough, that covers a lot of my sentiments and my reasons for starting this site and campaign (a generous term for a site that currently receives about 3 visitors per day).

The article begins around an interview with Joe Biden. Here's when Biden said he realized Kerry would lose the election:
“That night, I got off that trip, from Scranton, I got off the plane, Wilmington airport, only private aircraft, get off, pick up a phone, call a local place called the Charcoal Pit before it closes. They have great steak sandwiches and a milkshake. Triple-thick milkshake. And I hadn't eaten. I'm going to pass it on the way home. They're literally sweeping the floors. A woman, overweight, forty years old, a little unkempt, had a tooth missing in the side, not in the front'—he showed his flashing white teeth, to demonstrate"walks up to me to give me my steak sandwich. ‘Senator Biden, I'm so glad you're here. I've got a problem.' And I take out a piece of paper, maybe Social Security for her mother, and she said, ‘I heard you're for Kerry.' And she said, ‘You're so strong and he's so weak."

Biden looked at me, to make sure I understood what he seemed to think was a point of considerable nuance. “I'm gonna tell you why I'm going to vote for someone,' he said, addressing the woman of the story. “Look, you're working here tonight. If the Republicans have their way, you won't get paid overtime. When you stay here tonight, you're already closed. Besides that, what they want to do with your health care.' Then he quoted what the woman had replied: “But you're so strong, and he's so weak. And President Bush—he seems strong.'
I supported Kerry, but comeon, who didn't think the guy was some rich wimp? He showed no fire when he spoke, and when he tried to come off as passionate he came off, in my eyes, as a phony. And I worked tirelessly to ensure he defeated Bush.
Bush seemed strong (not to me, he also seems like a prep school brat), and that image, no matter how wrong it was, was enough to convince many voters to vote against their economic interests. (I hope that woman doesn't need to file for bankruptcy anytime soon).

Goldberg then goes on to illustrate the pitfalls ahead for the Dems, and a reason to be pessimistic about the Democrats abilities to truly turn themselves into the party of Security
Kerry considers himself to be a national-security-oriented Democrat" Holbrooke, too, puts him in that camp and appeared to take no particular offense at Biden's criticisms. 'I'm not going to dissect the campaign,' he said. But he seemed displeased when I asked whether the Democrats had a credibility problem on defense issues, and he finally said, 'Look, the answer is, we have to do an unbranding.' By this he meant that the Democrats had to do a better job of selling to the American people what he believes is already true—that the Democrats are every bit as serious on the issue as Republicans. 'We have to brand more effectively. It's marketing.'

Most national-security Democrats believe that the Party's problems on the issue go deeper than marketing. They agree that the Party should be more open to the idea of military action, and even preëmption; and although they did not agree about the timing of the Iraq war and the manner in which Bush launched it, they believe that the stated rationale—Saddam's brutality and his flouting of United Nations resolutions—was ideologically and morally sound. They say that the absence of weapons of mass destruction was more a failure of intelligence than a matter of outright deception by the Administration; and although they do not share the neoconservatives' enthusiastic belief in the transformative power of military force, they accept the possibility that the invasion of Iraq might lead to the establishment of democratic institutions there.
First off, the stated rationale wasn't how evil Saddam was, it was WMD. As Zinni points out- we were conned.

And what the hell is wrong with these guys? The intelligence community tried its damnedest to alert these fools to the fact that the CIA was getting railroaded. General Zinni stood in front of all these so-called Security Democrats and told them that Saddam was not an imminent threat. And yet, they still want to bail out the president, his lies, and the damage he has done to the intelligence community by heaping the blame on them (The buck always stops somewhere else with Bush, doesn't it?). Being strong on security doesn't mean rubber-stamping the neocon conquests. Buying into a fringe ideology is completely different from committing yourself to securing your nation, but apparently the Dems still haven't gotten that memo.

In addition, national-security Democrats try to distance themselves from the Party's post-Vietnam ambivalence about the projection of American power. In other words, they are men and women who want to reach back to an age of Democratic resoluteness, embodied by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy. Their mission may have been complicated earlier this year by Howard Dean's victory in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, although Dean, the most stridently antiwar of the major candidates in 2004, has promised to suppress the urge to comment on foreign policy.
Here I have to agree- we must not be afraid to use force when it is necessary. But- if we are to wage effective wars we must be honest with the American people about why we're going to war, what the costs are going to be, etc. I personally doubt that most Americans would have supported the invasion and occupation of the war if the "threat" of WMD wasn't pushed so hard by almost everyone in the administration, and especially by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the Neocon-artists.

I couldn't disagree more with the following:
or a Democrat who wants to cultivate an image of toughness on national security, the challenge is to adopt positions that, in some cases, are closer to those of Paul Wolfowitz than to those of Edward Kennedy while remaining loyal to the Party.
This is exactly what we DON'T need, and why we desperately need great military minds like Zinni in our party. We need REALISM not RADICAL IDEALISM. If the only path to changing our security image is to adopt the radical outlook of the neocons, then we're screwed. Not only will Democrats fail to win, but we will help to normalize this type of aggressive behavior.

The article then goes on to push the notion that Democracy in the Middle East is actually on the March, and this is surely a good thing for us. Here's the problem: if the Arab people decided they wanted to be run by fundamentalist Islamic leaders, would America stand by and let it happen? Please- the Neocons only care about Democracy when someone favorable to the West is elected. If anyone thinks we'd let them elect a radical shiite cleric they're fooling themselves. Most of the Arab leaders were set up as Western puppets after WWI and II and have very little support amongst their people. But does it follow that if you rid yourself of these puppets that "the Arab street" would embrace Western Democracy? I highly doubt it.

We need a real security agenda, not some ideologically blinded theory.