November 23, 2005
Dems Need Another Scoop Jackson
The Democrats need
a candidate like a Democrat they used to have. He was Henry "Scoop"
Jackson -- a hawk abroad, a liberal at home. From 1941 until his
death in 1983, Jackson represented Washington state in Congress,
first as a representative and for his last 30 years as a senator.
Until Democrats find someone with his kind of credibility on national
security, they are not going to win the White House.
Jackson was the last
Truman Democrat. As such, he believed that America should help
working people, but had to win the Cold War. Jackson's worldview
was forged in the lesson of Munich: that appeasing Nazi Germany
led to World War II and the death camps. Jackson understood that
totalitarians view weakness with contempt -- and offering them
one-sided concessions just makes them more dangerous.
People forget that
from World War II through the Kennedy years, Democrats led the
way on national defense. Republicans were held back by their isolationist
wing and a resistance to government spending.
As chairman of the
Democratic National Committee, Jackson roasted President Eisenhower
for putting budget caps on defense spending. He blamed that policy
for "the missile gap" then allegedly favoring the Soviets.
"The richest country in the world," Jackson declared
in 1960 while campaigning for John F. Kennedy, "can afford
whatever it needs for defense."
Jackson was the father
of neoconservatism, a legacy that troubles some Democrats today.
Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz all worked for
or with him. These Jackson alumni planned and promoted the Iraq
But what would Jackson
have thought about Iraq? That the war's architects learned about
the world at Jackson's knee might suggest approval from the great
have been very pleased by the performance of his disciples,"
asserts Robert G. Kaufman, author of "Henry M. Jackson: A
Life in Politics" and professor of public policy at Pepperdine
the root cause of the Cold War as a messianic ideology and totalitarianism,"
says Kaufman. He would have seen similar root causes in 9/11.
Other readings of
Jackson do not draw such slam-dunk conclusions. Jackson's support
of a strong defense did not necessarily translate into an appetite
for marching into war -- especially in the Middle East. In 1982,
Jackson slammed President Reagan's decision to send peacekeepers
into Lebanon, and for reasons that might resonate today. Citing
the volatile mix of Christians, Shiites, Sunnis and Druze, he
insisted that Lebanon was no place for American troops in a police
of Americans being killed, the danger of divisiveness that would
accrue from those developments ... are all too real," Jackson
said on "Face the Nation." "A superpower should
not play that kind of role in a cauldron of trouble, because sooner
or later we are going to get hurt."
So Jackson very well
might have opposed going into Iraq. But here is the point for
Democrats: Jackson could have taken that position, and no one
would have questioned his determination to defend America.
Kerry did not inspire
similar confidence. Voters didn't need him to declare the war
an unbridled great success. By the 2004 election, unease over
the wisdom and execution of the war was already growing. What
people wanted, and didn't get, was a more general sign of resolve
to confront the terrorist threat.
In recounting Scoop
Jackson's enthusiasm for a robust defense, we mustn't overlook
that he was as much a liberal as he was a hawk. Jackson supported
proposals for national health care, starting with Truman's. He
was a staunch friend of labor and an unswerving supporter of civil
Jackson. In 1952, the red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy campaigned
against him. Even as Jackson offered strong support for Reagan's
defense buildup, the conservative Richard Viguerie targeted him
for defeat. "He has got a lot to answer for," Viguerie
said in 1982, "you know, like his 100-percent AFL-CIO voting
By the time Jackson
ran for president, in 1972 and 1976, Cold War liberals had gone
out of fashion. The trauma of Vietnam had soured many Democrats
on a militarily assertive America, and Jackson could not get his
In the post-9/11
world, Scoop Jackson seems fresh again. And Democratic candidates
would do well to speak his language on national security. Their
job is to pair liberal social policies with an uncompromising
toughness toward external threats. Scoop Jackson proved it can
2005 Creators Syndicate