The belief that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction was one of the major reasons for going to war. We now know that information was faulty. So the question on everyone's mind this November will be: Was the war in Iraq a failure of intelligence or leadership?
That's a big question. It carries the sort of weight that defines a political party for a generation. Think of the economic angst that Reagan tapped into in 1980; the row of tin pot dictators that Nixon kicked around in 1968; the civil discord that Kennedy tapped into in 1960.
So, how has the Democratic Party responded to the Iraq question? The answer is clear: It hasn't.
That became obvious when John Edwards was selected as Kerry's running mate.
Let's recap. Usually a vice presidential candidate is picked based on his ability to deliver key states (think Lyndon Johnson delivering Texas for Kennedy). It is questionable whether Edwards would have even won his home state of North Carolina, let alone whether he'll deliver it in November.
So why were all the pollsters so adamant that Kerry should select Edwards as his running mate? Clearly, they worry that Kerry can seem a little lackluster at times. So they tapped Edwards to add a populist kick to the ticket. You'll note that Edwards responded with a rousing speech about "two Americas" and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. He said nothing about Iraq. One could argue that this is because the war was a failure of intelligence, rather than leadership. Or, you could argue that Edwards doesn't want to make Iraq a partisan issue, since both he and Kerry had access to the same intelligence information as the president, and both voted in the Senate for the use of force in Iraq. But more to the point, Edwards is a lightweight on foreign policy.
What Edwards does bring to the table is the ability to bond with middle- and lower-class voters. He does this with charm, charisma, and a unyielding dedication to distilling complex political issues into sound bites.