Profile in fence-sitting
Debra J. Saunders
9/27/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Senate majority Leader Tom Daschle doesn't get it: War is a
If voters elect more hawks, America gets more military -- which
can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. If voters elect more
doves, they get less military -- for better or for worse.
A true leader -- such as President Bush -- takes stands on tough
issues, such as Iraq.
Daschle, on the other hand, seems offended that politics compel
him to explain how his course of action is best for the country and by
Bush's passionate defense of his policies.
"We ought not to politicize the rhetoric about life and death,"
Daschle said Wednesday. Yes, that's the same Daschle who had wanted to put
off a vote on an Iraq resolution until after the November election.
Does anyone believe that Daschle was afraid the Democrats would
gain a few Senate seats and clinch his leadership position?
Enter that cutout of a human being, Al Gore. Gore could give
Daschle lessons on rhetorical hedging.
The former vice president's speech on Bush's Iraq policy before
the Commonwealth Club here on Monday was a big news story. Don't ask me why.
It's not as if it took political courage to bash Bush in San Francisco.
And Gore didn't say much.
Consider this much-cited line from the speech: "If you're going
after Jesse James, you ought to organize the posse first, especially if
you're in the middle of a gunfight with somebody who's out after you."
What does that mean? That it's a good idea to organize a posse
while a gunslinger is shooting at you?
And the worst of it is, Gore didn't just say that line off the
top of his head. He wrote it into a carefully planned speech.
The New York Times reported that Gore consulted with
actor-director Rob "Meathead" Reiner as he was writing Monday's speech. But
don't blame Meathead. Gore's always had a gift for talking out of both sides
of his mouth. This is vintage Gore.
If Bush succeeds in the war on terrorism, Gore can cite lines to
show that he was supportive. (Before the posse line, Gore said America can
fight Osama bin Laden and build an international coalition.)
If Bush fails, well, Gore warned him how tough it would be to
fight bin Laden and Saddam Hussein simultaneously.
Like Daschle, Gore shuddered at "the role that politics might be
playing in the calculations of some in the administration. I have not raised
those doubts, but many have." Translation: Gore doesn't even have the spine
to charge that Bush is political, so he'll hide behind other people who say
No surprise then if Gore doesn't have the backbone to take a
stand on a life-and-death issue.
Then, there's Gore's cheap-shot charge that Bush is pursuing
Hussein because defeating Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda "is proving to be
more difficult and lengthy than predicted."
Bogus. Bush never said the war on terrorism would be a quickie.
Gore asserted that Bush "has quickly abandoned almost all of
Afghanistan" -- even as some 9,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan,
according to the Pentagon.
Gore warned that the United States may lose if a war is fought
on two fronts -- which made Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the
Defense of Democracies, laugh. "We're the nation that fought Germany, Japan
and Italy all at once," said May.
The day after the speech, Commonwealth Club member Alexa Vuksich
said she still didn't understand what Gore was saying. But she knew it was
All that sanctimony -- and so little no substance.
Or as Sen. Joe Lieberman, Gore's 2000 running mate, told The San
Francisco Chronicle, "Al didn't really indicate how he would vote on a resol
Maybe Gore's just busy organizing a posse, waiting for someone
else's gunfight to blow over.