If there were stock in carrots and sticks, I would direct my broker to immediately buy some because virtually all of the Democratic presidential candidates in Philadelphia Tuesday night said these are their weapons of choice in confronting Iran's nuclear threat. Some would use "vigorous diplomacy" (that should strike fear into the heart of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). Sen. Barack Obama said he would "convene a meeting of Muslim leaders." Which ones? And what carrots could he offer them that would prevent them from using a stick on us? The sellout of Israel, perhaps? The withdrawal of all American troops and presence from all Muslim lands, as many say they want? Allowing more mosques and Islamic schools that teach hatred of America, Jews and Christians into the United States?
Do we have any enemies? Just Republicans. It's all President Bush's fault we are at war. He does nothing right.
Democrats claim terrorism has nothing to do with Iran and Iraq. Sen. Hillary Clinton said the only reason she would leave a token force in Iraq is to fight al-Qaida there. But Iraq is about far more than al-Qaida. How would U.S. forces distinguish between an al-Qaida fighter and someone else? Maybe they could be given special driver's licenses like New York Governor Eliot Spitzer proposes for the illegal aliens in his state.
Sen. Clinton displayed her familiar caginess when asked about illegal immigrants and driver's licenses. She has said she supports the proposal, but when repeatedly asked about it at the debate, she was evasive, which John Edwards quickly noted. She also evaded and dissembled when asked why it is taking so long for communications between President Clinton and herself to be released from the Clinton Library. She fell back on a bureaucratic explanation and then dodged a question about a letter her husband wrote to archivists asking them not to release such communication until after the election. It does make one wonder what they are attempting to - dare I say it? - cover up.
Once again, Sen. Clinton tried to have it both ways on the war, which she claims to oppose (though she voted for it before she was against it), but quickly added she supports those "brave young men and women" doing the fighting. Yes, but isn't that like saying we admire those Nazi troops who displayed bravery during World War II? That they were just following orders and that it was their leaders who were evil?
Come on, if you think the war is wrong, why can't you say the troops are wrong in supporting the goals of the "evil" Bush-Cheney administration? None of the candidates dare say that because Republicans would use it to undermine their already weak standing on national security and defense. Clinton said, "Bush does not intend to end" the Iraq war, which is silly. She said she would, which is even sillier. The question should have been, "Regardless of your position on the wisdom of this war, what would you do to avoid a failed Iraqi state that would surely be used by terrorists as a base to attack Israel and eventually come after us?" And what would the Democratic candidates do about the smuggling of arms and fighters into Iraq from Iran?
Sen. Clinton did mention personal responsibility - once - in reference to energy consumption and Sen. Obama scored points at Clinton's expense when he said "what we don't need is another eight years of bickering," a reference to Bill Clinton's eight years in office and an assumption that Hillary Clinton could win two terms.
What is lacking in all of these candidates - Democrat and Republican - is a clear vision that empowers individuals. This is supposed to be a country of opportunity for its citizens. It has become (even with Republicans in charge) a government that dispenses goodies to the group that can produce the most votes. This cynical and selfish approach to government is what has turned so many people off to politics and politicians.
One wishes that a Democrat and a Republican might be forced to sit in a room and not allowed out until they come to an agreement on at least two important issues without compromising their principles. No bathroom breaks and no food until they do. Call it a carrot-and-stick moment.
They're not running for president of their respective parties, but for president of the United States. Why can't they act like it?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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