It was always a myth that partisanship ended at the water's edge. But Democrats have debunked, exposed and parodied that myth. They claim that the president started it by running foreign policy as a partisan enterprise. Fine, there's obviously some truth there. But when the likes of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Jay Rockefeller whine that they were misled into war, they're declaring that they never took their responsibilities seriously in the first place. Indeed, as Christopher Hitchens recently illustrated in Slate, Clinton wasn't tricked by Bush; she supported the war because of what she deduced on her own, both as a senator and as a presidential trainee in Bill Clinton's White House when it bombed Iraq and adopted regime change as U.S. policy.
Pro-war Democrats (Sen. Joe Lieberman and a few others excluded) simply hopped on the bandwagon, figuring it would be a political free ride. When it went south, they hopped off, claiming that the driver lied to them. Of course, many Democrats sincerely believe that the war on terror is real and that Iraq is a dangerous distraction from it. But that's not the issue. Terror hawks think you can't both believe the war on terror is real and argue for handing Iraq over to the enemy - even if we shouldn't have invaded in the first place.
If the war on terror really isn't that big a deal, hooray. Then Democrats can't do that much damage, and we can all argue about the minimum wage and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plane. If it is a big deal, Democrats need to be slapped out of their anti-Bush hysteria by real life. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a Churchillian figure to hawks, said this week that al-Qaida is "praying" for a Democratic victory in 2008. It may be. But what happens when a President Clinton or President Obama has a 9/11 - or worse - on her or his watch? Or is faced with the prospect of an Iraq run by terrorists? I'd like to hope that president would rise to the occasion, out of conviction or political self-interest.
For hawks who believe that the Bush White House either hasn't been hawkish enough or has done a much better job than the conventional wisdom holds (remember, no terrorist attacks on our soil since 9/11), counting on Democrats to learn on the job is a chilling thought. Which is why it remains a whisper, for now.