The Philadelphia Inquirer has a great piece today on how many of the highest-profile 2008 Democratic presidential contenders - other than the courageous Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) - are still unwilling to take a serious position on the Iraq War. I must say, there are very troubling signs in the article in terms of Democrats continuing to regurgitate dishonest right wing lies (a phenomenon I have written a lot about before), and continuing to listen to the professional election losers (aka. "The Consulting Class") and the club of foreign policy elitists (aka. the "The Strategic Class") in Washington, D.C. But there are also some very encouraging signals this insulated Beltway Establishment is being shaken to its core.
First the very bad news. The article notes that the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is once again undermining the Democratic Party. This time, it has "accused war critics of 'anti-American bias'" (wonder if that includes Vietnam War hero and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel?). This is a pristine example of self-proclaimed Democrats literally regurgitating the most offensive and dishonest right-wing spin out there. There is nothing "anti-American" about wanting to bring our troops home. (Frankly, it's the other way around: there is something "anti-American soldier" about wanting to indefinitely leave our troops in a shooting gallery without an exit strategy, without proper body armor, and without any semblance of a plan). The DLC's rhetoric is reminiscent of Attorney General John Ashcroft's now-famous statement that critics of the Bush administration "only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." It is also frighteningly reminiscent of the 9/8/03 Washington Post story that noted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that "critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the ongoing U.S. war on terrorism."
More bad news: the Democratic Party's Senate and House campaign apparatus is telling Democrats to keep their mouths shut on Iraq, for fear they will look weak on national security. Most recently, these pathetic souls desperately tried to divert attention from how the Iraq War played an instrumental role in Iraq War Veteran Paul Hackett's congressional race in Ohio. Apparently, the class of professional election losers in Washington, D.C. thinks Democrats can win by saying almost nothing on Iraq (like the party often says nothing on lots of issues, thus perpetuating the perception that Democrats stand for nothing). As one "Democratic strategist" told the Inquirer, "Let's not refight the origins of the war, who was right or wrong. That discussion has run its course." The strategist then said "Let's keep hitting Bush when he's not being straight with the people."
That's all well and good - except, it assumes that Americans are stupid. The fact is, doing what these strategists suggest will reinforce the idea that Democrats stand for nothing, because refusing to address the Iraq war is the equivalent of Democrats "not being straight with people" in the same way Bush isn't being straight with people. It's the reason why we can drive up Bush and the GOP's negatives all we want - but that doesn't mean it is going to help us. The fact is, Democrats will not capitalize on any of this until they start speaking clearly about where they actually stand on the war, and whether they actually have the guts to say what polls show most Americans believe: that the Bush administration deliberately lied to us about why we were going to war, that the war has made our country less safe/secure, and that it's time for a serious exit strategy.
Finally, there is some good news: the Inquirer story reminds us that there is a growing outrage outside the class of professional election losers in Washington who are starting to flex their political muscle. That is, the millions of ordinary, hard-working citizens who actually make up the ranks of the Democratic Party are getting sick and tired of the split-the-difference politics that has led Democrats to loss after loss after loss. People like Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Paul Hackett are showing that there are talented and effective champions who are listening to us, and are ready to take up the fight. And others like top-tier Senate candidate Bob Casey (D-PA) are rejecting the Iraq advice from the all-too-comfortable consultants in Washington.
It is up to us to support these and other courageous leaders in their noble cause, because they are fighting not only for the future of the Democratic Party, but more importantly, for the future of this country.