"As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be-President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. 'When comes the end?' ... And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end." This was part of freshman Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's much ballyhooed stentorian Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address.
One wonders if the untold millions of North Koreans who've starved, bled and died since then would similarly applaud Eisenhower's courage and wisdom. For more than half a century, North Korea has been a prison-camp society beyond the imagining of George Orwell, where public executions for stealing food are familiar events. The man-made famine of the 1990s alone claimed the lives of up to 1 million people (hard data from Stalinist regimes are difficult to come by).
One also wonders: When are our troops going to come home? Technically, the Korean War isn't really over. We're merely enjoying a cease-fire - much like the one we had with Iraq in the 1990s.
While Webb favors a "formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq," our forces in South Korea have been there for nearly six decades. Something tells me the antiwar base of the Democratic Party doesn't have that sort of timetable in mind for Iraq.
So, except for the fact that the Korean War didn't end, our troops are still there, and the outcome has been the source of humanitarian and national security nightmares, Webb's salute to Eisenhower's statesmanship really strikes home.
In fairness, Webb is a thoughtful man who takes foreign affairs more seriously than most politicians. But his closest-weapon-to-hand style of attack against Bush does not reflect well on him or the Democratic Party that chose him to be its representative.
But it is revealing. Indeed, the Democratic Party's most honest moment Tuesday night came not in Webb's brusque words but in the Democrats' brusquer body language.
The president asserted that no one wants failure in Iraq. Understandably, the commander in chief wanted to avoid conceding how very real a possibility failure is, so he chose his rhetoric carefully. He spoke in the abstract about the bipartisan desire for victory and success.
And yet the Democrats for the most part sat on their hands, refusing to applaud, never mind rise in favor of such statements from a wartime president.
Then, when the president mentioned ending genocide in Darfur, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party leaped to their feet.