"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9-11 in the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9-11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9-11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban. In the wake of 9-11, the liberals believed it was time to submit a petition." So spoke White House presidential advisor Karl Rove to New York's Conservative Party last week.
Not surprisingly, some politicians generally classed as liberals took umbrage. New York's Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that they and most other Democratic elected officials reacted to the Sept. 11 attacks with outrage and voted for the resolution authorizing military action in Afghanistan. Only one member of Congress, Berkeley left-winger Barbara Lee, voted against it.
In the liberal narrative, the Democratic Party selflessly supported George W. Bush until he unwisely decided to make war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And indeed many of them supported that: Schumer and Clinton voted for the Iraq war resolution in October 2002.
Reading the initial press accounts of Rove's speech, I wished that he had been more specific about which liberals he was denouncing -- except that, as those press accounts failed to mention, he was. "I'm not joking," he went on immediately after the words quoted above. "Submitting a petition was precisely what Moveon.org, then known as 9-11peace.org did. You may have seen it in The New York Times or The Washington Post, the San Francisco Examiner or the L.A. Times. (Funny, I didn't see it in the Amarillo Globe News.) It was a petition that 'implored the powers that be' to 'use moderation and restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks against the United States.'"
One reason that the Democrats are squawking so much about Rove's attack on "liberals" is that he has put the focus on a fundamental split in the Democratic Party -- a split among its politicians and its voters.
On the one hand, there are those who believe that this is a fundamentally good country and want to see success in Iraq. On the other hand, there are those who believe this is a fundamentally bad country and want more than anything else to see George W. Bush fail.
Those who do not think this split is real should consult the responses to pollster Scott Rasmussen's question last year. About two-thirds of Americans agreed that the United States is a fair and decent country. Virtually all Bush voters agreed. Kerry voters were split down the middle.