The Washington Post’s two house liberal columnists are still up in arms about the Republican convention. Howard Meyerson claims the convention proves that “it’s still Nixon’s party.” Inasmuch as Meyerson’s chief beef is with Zell Miller’s keynote speech, he might have called us “Clinton’s party.” After all, Miller was Clinton’s keynoter in 1992, and Clinton’s chief operative, James Carville, used to be Miller’s campaign manager. But it’s Miller’s “lies” (as well as the more low-key “lying” of Dick Cheney) that has Meyerson reaching back to Nixon. Yet Meyerson does not identify a single statement of either Miller or Cheney that he considers a lie.
E.J. Dionne does a little better. He identifies one statement that I would agree went too far — Miller’s claim that Democrats don’t see any real danger in the world except that which the U.S. brings upon itself. While Democrats, including John Kerry, think that many of the dangers we face are attributable to our own “arrogance,” most would acknowledge that we face some danger that is independent of that arrogance. In other words, Kerry usually blames America first, but these days he’s sometimes willing to blame our enemies too.
Dionne also calls Miller to task for claiming that Kerry “has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations.” Here, we encounter the usual difficulty that arises any time someone claims that Kerry has made something clear. It is true, as Dionne states, that Kerry denied in his acceptance speech that he would give the U.N. a veto. Yet Kerry’s actions strongly suggest that he does oppose the use of force not approved by the U.N. How else does he explain his apparent opposition to going to war in Iraq, a war he had voted to approve, on the grounds that we didn’t have the approval of the U.N. Security Council?
Finally, Dionne cites Miller’s statement that Democratic leaders see Americans as occupiers, not liberators, and asks which Democratic leader Miller is talking about. I admit that this attack sounded a little too strong when I first heard it. On reflection, however, I think it’s fair. Which Democratic leader? Let’s start with Ted Kennedy, Kerry’s mentor and a man with whom Kerry rarely disagrees except when he is running for president. During the Abu Ghraib prison scandal Kennedy opined that Saddam’s torture chambers were open for business. In doing so, Kennedy actually went beyond calling the U.S. “occupiers”; he called us oppressors. And how about Al Gore? He said that this scandal was the natural outgrowth of U.S. policy towards Iraq. So when it comes to these Democratic leaders, Miller was actually being charitable.
But the problem goes beyond Kennedy and Gore. Michael Moore, arguably the intellectual leader of party, has characterized the Iraqi opposition as freedom fighters. Moore was an honored guest at the Democratic convention. Which Democratic leaders have denounced Moore? And which prominent Democrats outside of the ever-shrinking Lieberman wing have characterized what we did in Iraq as a liberation? We clearly are occupying Iraq. If we are not liberators then why aren’t we mere occupiers?
There is a middle ground. It might be the case that our occupation is making America safer. But which Democratic leaders believe that? Certainly not Howard Dean. In his view, even the capture of Saddam did not make America safer.
What about Kerry himself? As with most questions, it’s not clear whether he thinks we are safer due to our actions in Iraq. But it was clear that he didn’t regard the Americans who tried to roll back the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam as liberators. Nor did he think that we were acting as liberators when we supported those trying to overthrow the Communist regime in Nicaragua. It’s not clear whether he viewed our action in Kuwait as a liberation but, if he did, he clearly thought it was a liberation not worth undertaking.
Dionne attributes Miller’s attacks to him being a “fast learner in the folkways of the crowd he’s now running with.” Less blatant partisans like Tim Russert suggest he’s just an “angry white man.” The reality is that Miller is legitimately outraged that, in a time of crisis, the Kennedy-Kerry wing, with its consistent record of reluctance or outright refusal to fight our enemies and the enemies of freedom, controls his party.
BIG TRUNK adds: Reader Jon Stein of Cold Spring Press writes:
It may go without saying, but I think it bears repeating: in the previous Gulf War, a war that is clearly an order of magnitude more relevant and important to our national security than any of the Clinton-era dustups, Kerry voted against it even after the Security Council approved the use of force. For my money, this is an even greater indictment of his judgment on war and peace matters.