Donald Lambro of the Washington Times reaches the same conclusion as Rocket Man regarding Tom Daschle’s recent outburst — it “had more to do with his political frustration over Iraq’s dominance in the election debate than with President Bush’s slap at Senate Democrats on national security.” Lambro cites some significant poll results. A Gallup Poll shows that, by a margin of 49 percent to 41 percent, voters are more worried about Iraq than the economy when it comes to deciding how to vote in the upcoming House and Senate races. This represents a 16-point shift since last month. And an Ipsos Public Affairs poll (whatever that is) shows that, by a 6-point margin, Americans now think that the country is moving in the right direction. This represents a 13-point shift.
In order to cope with this sentiment and still appease their liberal base, Daschle and Gore want to persuade folks that one can care about our security and still be opposed to war with Iraq. But Gore recognized that this refrain, by itself, won’t cut it. Thus, he tried to argue that he has a better plan for protecting our security — ongoing pursuit of Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This required him to argue that current pursuit of these terrorists is inadequate. But most Americans (with some conservatives dissenting) believe that administration policy in Afghanistan has been a clear success and that Al Qaeda is already very much on the run. Consequently, Gore looked petty and foolish trying to argue otherwise.
The reality is that, in practice, the Democrats do place less of a priority on national security than the Republicans. Neither party places security considerations above all others under all circumstances. For example, neither advocates doubling the size of the armed forces or implementing a police state. But, compared to the Democrats, the Republicans advocate more resources for the military and greater constraints on civil liberties. Moreover, as we have documented during the past few months, Democratic policy on issues of high importance to their favorite interest groups, such as immigration and tort reform, does not consistently seek to maximize national security. These specifics are not understood by the public because they are not reported in the mainstream press. But the public seems to understand instinctively that the Democrats are more willing than the Republicans to trade-off security concerns. And every time a Democrat whines that the Iraq debate is shifting attention away from economic issues, he or she reinforces this understanding.
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