WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Time has been passing since Congress
approved its genial bipartisan resolution on war with Iraq, and the
Democrats' resolve for "regime change" in faraway Baghdad has declined with
every tic of the clock.
Ever the reasonable chief executive, President George W. Bush
has been dutiful about consulting all the assembled dignitaries and
dictators at the United Nations. He has sent his diplomats to every foreign
capital that mattered to explain the obvious -- namely, that Saddam Hussein
has remained defiant of United Nations Resolution 1441. Our president
repeatedly conferred with the congressional leadership.
What has been the president's reward? With the passage of time,
the peace movement as it is called metastasized from a small band of
anti-American Americans led by the idiot savant Noam Chomsky into a growing
national movement, albeit still heavily drawn from the left. Yet time
passes, and the peace movement of 2003 has grown rampant among Democratic
Where not long ago there was wide support among Democrats for
removing Saddam Hussein, there is now Democratic presidential candidate Dr.
Howard Dean setting off warm murmurs of approbation when he intones his
irenic solemnities. And when his solemnities are not about peacemaking, they
are about Complexities, the Complexities of statecraft. Before declaring his
presidential candidacy, Dean was governor of Vermont.
Of all the Democratic hopefuls to address members of the
Democratic National Committee at their winter meeting, it was Dean who
elicited the loudest applause. The applause erupted when he uttered this
enravishing line: "What I want to know is, why is the Democratic Party
leadership supporting the president's unilateral war on Iraq?"
That the line is obviously a lie perhaps added to the Democratic
National Committee's pleasure. Truth be known, the president has a score or
more of countries lined up in support of war against Iraq. But being a
liberal Democrat, one operates on the assumption that one is never wrong, no
matter how foolish.
The steady drift of Democratic activists away from war with
Iraq, despite the president's every effort to accommodate their concerns, is
another demonstration of a phenomenon of American politics that I only
became aware of in the Clinton years. The phenomenon is this: a sizable
proportion of the politically committed in America today are not propelled
by principle or by fact but by the deep emotional satisfaction, indeed the
peace of mind, that they derive from beating hell out of an opponent.
To be sure, it is commonly heard that the politicians, at least
those of the finest flower, long to put partisanship aside; but the truth is
that without partisanship, politics would lose much of its attraction for
many politically active souls. Frankly, many of them are itching for a fight
and grateful for every perceived enemy.
At some point during the past few months, many Democratic
activists got to thinking about the company they were keeping in the
campaign against the Iraqi Hitler and misgivings accumulated. George W. Bush
was the fellow they had accused of stealing the White House. Reps. Dennis
Hastert and Tom DeLay were Newt Gingrich's kind of people. For all their
political lives, most ardent Democrats have considered Republicans haters of
the poor and poisoners of student lunch programs. Dean, Sen John Kerry, the
Rev. Al Sharpton and all the other Democratic hopefuls have long considered
themselves the moral and intellectual superiors of W. and his
silk-stockinged colleagues. These prejudices are personally very satisfying;
indeed they are a Democratic activist's source of identity.
The wellspring of American politics, at least Democratic
politics, is contempt -- contempt for the wretches who call themselves
Republicans. As I say, I first noticed this phenomenon during the Clinton
scandals. Every time the Boy President would be suspected of a truly
egregious breach of ethics or of the law, the ardent Democrat would heave up
something to the effect, "Well, if he did that he's finished." Almost every
time it turned out he did "do that." Yet never did the Democrats wash their
hands of him. One congressman did, Paul McHale, but that was about it (and
soon the White House was lying about the distinguished veteran's military
What happened was that the Democrats contemplated the gloating
Republicans and stuck with their Bill. Yes, he had misbehaved; but his
accusers were so much worse, viz. those federal prosecutors or Lucianne
This is the phenomenon behind the peace movement's spread into
the Democratic ranks. Democratic activists are not fetched into the peace
movement by the cool rationality of the United Nations or humane sympathy
for Saddam. They just cannot stomach a protracted alliance with the Bushies.
A few days after Iraq goes the way of Afghanistan, they will join with Dean
in celebrating their good judgment in effecting the liberation of Iraq.