If, as Sen. Teddy Kennedy rumbled recently, Iraq is President George W. Bush's Vietnam, surely the silver-haired senator is becoming Bush's Jane Fonda.
Of course, Teddy is not as svelte as Fonda, for he has never been an adept of fad diets, and an aerobics regimen could impair his precarious health. Nonetheless, Teddy is becoming the Fonda of our time. Possibly he will fly off to Falluja to be photographed on a burned out Humvee or visit Najaf to confer with the scowling Muslim cleric, the Rev. Muqtada al-Sadr. Having become so historically minded, Teddy goes on to call President Bush our era's Richard Nixon.
Actually, for this man to encourage Americans to reflect back on 1960s history is quite reckless given his blemished history. They might come across news reports of a senator leaving a girl to drown in his car while he slept off a drunk and later dialing up his high-powered advisers for urgent public relations counsel. They might also find stories of that same senator later boozing with his young nephews before their carousals ended in a rape charge. Other indelicacies have followed.
Yet, as the senator has brought up the always-illuminating guidance of history, it might help us to understand the present war by considering the wartime leadership of a Democrat whom Kennedy might admire, Franklin D. Roosevelt laboring through World War II.
On second thought, Kennedy might not admire FDR's leadership against the Axis all that much. His father, Ambassador Joe Kennedy, opposed Roosevelt's entry into the war. The ambassador was virtually an isolationist. From our embassy in London, he collaborated with some of Europe's most slavish appeasers. In his repulsive Oct. 19, 1938, speech commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar, Kennedy gave an appeasement stem-winder that even troubled British supporters of the doomed Munich agreement. FDR believed his ambassador was in truth a Fascist sympathizer.
Kennedy was at least an isolationist, and so it seems his son is today. It might prove rewarding for members of the Bush administration to review Roosevelt's brilliant treatment of the isolationists of his day. By the time Roosevelt was finished depicting the futility and irresponsibility of their antiwar rants, he had defeated the isolationists completely. His tactic was to characterize them as Hitler's dupes. As Roosevelt understood, by the late 1930s there was no alternative to defeating the Axis -- and there is no alternative to defeating the Islamofascists today. This is a point the president cannot make too frequently. Nor should he and his surrogates shy away from characterizing their Democratic opponents as dupes.