The custom among many has long been to ignore, where feasible, the mental belchings of the senior senator from Massachusetts on the theory that, ah, what's the use? What can anybody do anyway about Teddy Kennedy -- a figure large, literally, on the Washington scene and endowed with a supernaturally powerful surname?
Then comes Kennedy's poisonous claim that President Bush hoaxed us on Iraq. How do you ignore this stuff? You have to talk about it and, more depressingly, about what it means.
"There was no imminent threat," Kennedy told the Associated Press. "This was made up in Texas, announced to the Republican leadership that this was going to take place and was going to be good politically. The whole thing was a fraud."
Now, there's a great way to make sure the world takes seriously American professions concerning Iraq's future: Just have Ted Kennedy declare the war a politically motivated fraud. And while we're at it, wouldn't the senator like to add, for consistency, what about impeaching Bush? Wouldn't fraud rate among those "high crimes" for which the Constitution holds even presidents accountable?
The really sad part about such rhetorical swill as Kennedy hand-mixes by formula is its resemblance, in flavor and savor, to the party's blue-plate special on Iraq. Democrats seem largely to have decided their meal ticket mandates bashing the Iraq war whenever possible.
Democratic presidential candidates vie to see who can sound less supportive of the administration's efforts to stabilize and pacify a country ravaged for two decades by murder and oppression -- a country agreeable with, if not complicit in, anti-American terrorism.
Has the Democratic Party lost its mind or just its integrity? The question urgently needs confronting -- by independents, Republicans and, most of all, Democrats.
The Kennedy episode is a marvelous case in point. Kennedy shoots off his mouth. House Republican Leader Tom DeLay rightly complains that Democrats have "spewed more hateful rhetoric at President Bush than they ever did at Saddam Hussein." Sen. John Kerry promptly changes the subject, calling DeLay a "bully." Why, just look at the way he intimidates the Texas Legislature over redistricting!
Redistricting? Beg pardon? Wasn't Iraq the subject at hand -- that and the Democratic track record on same?
When it comes to Iraq -- as far as the party's presidential candidates are concerned (Joe Lieberman being a frequent exception) -- the success of Iraqi reconstruction takes a back seat to stripping votes from Bush. First things first, apparently -- politics over policy.
You have to acknowledge Teddy Kennedy's prowess at this thing. On Sept. 9, he declaimed before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the extra $87 billion the administration proposes spending on Iraq would "double the number of trained teachers in our nation's classrooms" and "provide two years of prescription drug coverage under Medicare for our nation's senior citizens." These and other wonderful public services the Kennedy Democrats would just love to provide were it not for those war-mongering -- and, don't forget, fraud-mongering -- Republicans.
Just so you'll know, though, that the Kennedy Democrats care about freedom, here is Kennedy again: "Clearly, we need to spend what's necessary to protect our troops and rebuild Iraq."
If only it were clear in the least! It isn't. What is clear is that if the Democrats consider themselves a serious party, they need urgently to rethink, and then modify, their present behavior.
You get the impression easily, from Kennedy-style bloviations, that the main thing Democrats are serious about is hustling Bush out the Whte House backdoor. As for Osama bin Laden, as for Saddam, as for Yasser Arafat -- well, again, first things first. How can we Democrats -- so the supposition goes -- do the right things (whatever those things may be, and we're not talking) until we throw out the guy doing the wrong thing?
A winning formula for international chaos this may prove. A formula for poltical success -- I believe I wouldn't count on that.