A party of principles after all

The Clarke affair, and Rocket Man’s commentary about the recent behavior of the Democrats, caused me to take a look at something I wrote about the Democrats more than a year ago for FrontPage Magazine. In that piece, I remarked on the unwillingness of leading Democrats to take serious, consistent positions on key issues pertaining to war and peace, and attempted to locate the sources of this once great party’s descent into unprecedented cynicism. The best I could do was to blame the post-modern intellectual climate, coupled with the willingness of the media and of core Democratic constituencies to let the Democrats get away with a level of dishonesty that Republicans know they could never pull off.
We see these elements at work today. John Kerry illustrates almost as well as Bill Clinton did my statement that “key Democratic leaders now regard issues and rules not as serious things in themselves, but as playthings to be manipulated almost without limit for political purposes.” Further, as Rocket Man has shown, the Clinton/Kerry syndrome finds its perfect expression in the manipulative and deceitful Richard Clarke. And Clarke’s brand of deceit can be attempted only with the assurance that the Democrats’ media enablers will give him a free pass.
But I think the real key to the Clarke affair, and the like, is something I referred to only briefly in the FrontPage piece — desperation. The Democrats sense great vulnerability on the issue of national security, and thus feel they must bring all of their cynicism to bear on this issue in an effort to discredit President Bush. In fact, E.J. Dionne gave the game away in the piece I posted on Friday. Dionne referred to Clarke as democracy’s revenge — revenge for the pounding the Democrats took on anti-terrorism in the 2002 election. It is the fear of another such pounding that explains the attempts to prove that Bush, but not Clinton, was negligent prior to 9/11.
But couldn’t the Democrats could avoid a pounding on the terrorism issue by embracing a strong anti-terrorist agenda? Yes, but that might mean supporting the Patriot Act, viewing terrorism as something other than essentially a policing issue, and denying Europeans the right to veto U.S. military action. These may be desperate times for Democrats, but they are not that desperate. So I guess the post-Howrd Dean Democratic party may have some principles after all.