Will Democrats Take 'Bug Out' Stance on Iraq?
By Mort Kondracke
standard except the short-term political, Democratic presidential
candidates Howard Dean and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) have made
a catastrophic decision in saying they oppose President Bush's
$87 billion aid package for Iraq.
candidate, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) - who claims to be a national
security expert - has said he's leaning toward the same politically
suicidal and unconscionable position taken by Dean and Edwards.
Voting against the $87 billion means voting not to support U.S.
troops now fighting for their lives and voting against the reconstruction
of Iraq, where people's desperation will make life more dangerous
for U.S. troops.
Such a vote
is a vote to bug out of Iraq and leave it to the tender mercies
of Saddam Hussein, his followers and international terrorists
who will kill everyone who associated themselves with the United
States and the goal of democratization.
If this were
to be U.S. policy, it would destroy this country's standing in
the world and fulfill the calculation of Osama bin Laden (and
maybe Hussein, too): that the United States is a country of "weakness,
frailty and cowardice," easily chased away when inflicted with
even modest casualties.
other leading Democratic candidates, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.)
and Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) have forthrightly declared that
America has to spend the money.
Wesley Clark put out the lame statement, "I'm running for president,
not for Congress." But this is a presidential decision if there
ever was one.
hesitation about supporting the money is an indication that he
is what Lieberman described him as months ago: an "uncertain trumpet"
on issues of war and peace.
And if a
majority of Democrats in either the House or the Senate ends up
voting against the military supplemental spending bill, that will
put a fatal brand on the Democratic Party. It will be the bug-out
way to explain the Edwards-Dean stance is as a massive pander
to anti-Bush, anti-war sentiment raging in the Democratic Party
and a response to polls indicating that the public at large opposes
the $87 billion aid package.
that a poll conducted by Republican Bill McInturff and Democrat
Stan Greenberg last week for National Public Radio showed that,
by 55 percent to 42 percent, likely voters oppose the $87 billion.
a feeble political reed on which to hang such a momentous decision
as the abandonment of U.S. forces in the field and a people who
have become America's responsibility.
not, it will prove a disastrous stance politically, too, especially
if conditions improve in Iraq and Bush finally succeeds in convincing
voters that his policies in Iraq are working.
In what might
have been seen as low-blow politics, Republicans probably were
going to accuse a Democratic nominee who criticized Bush's Iraq
policy of somehow aiding Hussein and international terrorism.
if the nominee is Dean or Edwards - or Kerry, if he sides with
them - Bush can make that charge openly. And, it won't be a low
blow. It will be totally true.
On a less
important level, Dean can be accused of flip-flopping on the post-war
finance issue. And Edwards can be accused of absolute incoherence.
he opposed the war, said in CNBC's Sept. 25 Democratic debate
in New York that America has "no choice" but to approve the $87
billion. Now, he's changed his view on the grounds that Bush refuses
to pay for U.S. action in Iraq with increased taxes.
make a legitimate point that taxes should be raised to pay for
the war, but to deny U.S. troops and Iraqis vital money on these
grounds puts budgetary considerations ahead of national security
- and America's moral duty.
who voted to authorize the war in October 2002, argued insensibly,
"I believe we have a responsibility to support our troops in Iraq.
I believe we have a responsibility to help rebuild Iraq," but
then said he opposes the money to achieve these aims.
He even said
that "ridding the world of Saddam Hussein was the right thing
to do and I stand by my vote." But
he announced that he will vote not to finish the job he helped
he said, Bush has not laid out a "credible plan" for reconstruction,
because Bush has "not engaged our allies in a meaningful way"
and because "Bush's friends" may be getting "sweetheart deals"
Bush is undercutting one of those premises by trying to win United
Nations backing for the post-war effort - which, if it's not followed
by aid and troop contributions from so-called "allies," will be
their fault, not his.
a "credible plan"? The administration has said pretty precisely
what it wants to spend $20 billion in reconstruction money on.
It's eager to turn over more authority to the Iraqi Governing
Council and hold elections as soon as they are feasible. And,
it's trying to recruit Iraqis to be responsible for their own
As to "sweetheart
deals," it's perfectly appropriate for Democrats to question construction
contracts - and cry "scandal" if there is one. It's indefensible
not to let construction go forward, however.
that Dean, Edwards or Kerry might declare that they knew Congress
would approve Bush's request and that they were merely casting
"protest votes." That's indefensible. Presidents and wannabe presidents
don't cast protest votes. They lead.
rebuke to Democrats who oppose the supplemental is the evidence
of what Iraqis want, as recorded in a new Gallup poll.
Only 26 percent
of Baghdad's citizens want U.S. troops to leave "immediately"
or "in the next few months." Seventy-two percent want them to
stay longer. And these Democrats want to abandon them? It's a
Mort Kondracke is the Executive
Editor of Roll Call.