Domestic partisan warfare

Posted: Dec 08, 2001 12:00 AM
The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt, in a fleeting moment of political clarity, admitted that we're lucky to have Bush instead of Gore as president during the war on terrorism. But there's a catch. The reason, says Hunt, that Gore would have had more difficulty as commander in chief is that the political right wouldn't have given him the leeway and support that President Bush has received. Oh? I'll concede that as to matters directly bearing on the conduct of the war, so far, the Democrats have supported President Bush admirably (other than Sen. Byrd's regrettable $15 billion rider to the Defense Department Appropriations Bill). But a nation does not fight a war in a domestic vacuum, especially one that began on its own soil and whose soil remains a target for the enemy. Democrats are operating on a subtler level, though less so with each passing day. They are saying that Bush is ignoring domestic issues and repeating his father's mistake of believing he can leverage his popularity on foreign policy issues alone to ensure his reelection. This is ironic, given their determined efforts to thwart the president's domestic proposals across the board: his economic-stimulus bill, energy bill, trade bill and terrorism-insurance bill. When you couple the Democrats' resistance on these items with their adamant objections to military tribunals, their hysterical frenzy about Attorney General Ashcroft's national-security measures, their refusal to confirm Eugene Scalia as Labor Department solicitor and their freeze on judicial confirmations a la Sen. Leahy, you might just wonder whether a conspiracy is afoot. It's almost as if they are using their support of the war effort as cover for their aggressive opposition on so many other fronts. Could it be that the benevolent smile that is forever attached to Sen. Daschle's face is designed to distract our focus from the dagger he has hoisted over Bush's programs? Instead of cooperating to implement Bush's much-needed plan to restore growth to the economy (while having the audacity to blame Bush for the recession and the inevitable return of deficits), Democratic senators are conducting a witch hunt against Attorney General Ashcroft. And why not? They obviously figure that Bush is currently untouchable, and so the best way to undermine him is to discredit the more vulnerable Ashcroft. Plus, there's a political bonus: In the process, they can even turn some conservatives against Bush by painting his administration as an enemy of civil liberties. Did you catch any of the Senate hearings – which we might as well refer to as Round II of the Ashcroft Inquisitions? The Democratic senators' noses are out of joint because the Bush administration did not consult them before issuing his order establishing tribunals. There's a method to their madness. They are attempting to elevate this issue into one even more important than civil liberties. It's a balance of power issue, they say, and the Bush administration is usurping its constitutional authority. And you guessed it, a charge that President Bush is abusing his constitutional authority vis-à-vis Congress is a sin on the order of Watergate. I might note that the senators, at the very least, have selective outrage about usurpations of presidential authority, depending on who is president. They didn't seem to be exercised about President Clinton's many usurpations of congressional authority through his countless executive orders or his circumvention of Congress's power to confirm his appointments. Nor do they seem to have any problem in refusing to conduct hearings on Bush's judicial appointments, thereby effectively depriving him of his constitutional authority to appoint judges. But I doubt that the senators really believe that Bush has usurped his authority under existing law by issuing the order establishing military tribunals. Indeed, Bush's order specifically cites a congressional statute empowering the president to establish the trial procedures for cases involving military tribunals. But by challenging Bush's authority, the Democratic senators are getting valuable television airtime to beat up again on their favorite whipping boy, John Ashcroft, and thereby discredit President Bush. Finally, though, someone has stood up to these hypocrites. Looking them straight in their sanctimonious faces, Ashcroft scolded them, "We need honest, reasoned debate, not fear-mongering. To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." Amen. President Bush should considering using Attorney General Ashcroft's reaction as a template for future dealings with this bitterly partisan Democratic Senate majority. If they insist on continuing to engage in partisan warfare while pretending they're not, then, perhaps President Bush should finally accommodate them.