Dems need to look, listen and keep quiet

Posted: Sep 18, 2007 12:01 AM
Dems need to look, listen and keep quiet

I'm officially sick of the way we conduct our politics. I have no beef with partisanship in principle: People should debate their differences. But in the end, we must remember that we're Americans, not just Republicans and Democrats. Sometimes we must simply stand together.

But Democrats and Republicans usually don't rise to the occasion. The best example of the worst of it: the way the mainstream left acted when Gen. David Petraeus -- our commander in Iraq -- came to Washington, D.C., to report on the war's progress.

Petraeus knows more about the conflict in Iraq than anyone else, but the antiwar group slapped him in the face on a day when all of Washington should have only been listening. Its infamously insulting ad, which was placed in The New York Times the day Petraeus was scheduled to testify before members of the House of Representatives, asked: "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?"

Republicans immediately condemned the ad. But where were the Democrats? Bloviating and attacking Petraeus. This is where partisan ties are meaningless -- when negative statements are so obviously counterproductive to both parties. Even before he testified, Petraeus was accused in op-ed pieces, on television and to his face of cooking the books. Florida Democrat Robert Wexler announced at the hearing, "The surge has failed based on most parameters. ... Cherry-picking statistics or selectively massaging information will not change the basic truth." In other words: "Don't bother talking, General, I won't be listening."

MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews could not get a rise out of former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry when he asked Kerry what he thought of the ad. Kerry conceded it was "inappropriate," but only after explaining that he felt their pain. Bush lied and people died, after all. And where was Hillary to discuss the ad? Nowhere to be seen. She should have been the first to condemn it. It would have shown a little leadership -- a willingness to stand up to an influential group in her party. But she didn't.

The day after Petraeus' hearing, the Republican presidential candidates attacked the grand Democratic silence. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona may have put it best later in the week: "If you're not tough enough to repudiate an attack like that, you're not tough enough to be president," he said, addressing Clinton specifically.

For some mainstream opponents of the Bush administration, a commanding general with an unblemished record (confirmed unanimously earlier this year by the Senate) can't be respected and listened to.

And this is what really sickens me. The war on Islamofascism we're in -- what Norman Podhoretz rightly calls "World War IV" -- is too important to be treated like just another issue for bloviation in congressional hearing rooms and on talk shows. Many of our citizens -- "leaders," talkers and voters -- too often sound like people who don't have a clear idea of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. And no facts can influence a change.

How can we hope to win a war that Americans, six years removed from its beginning, refuse to take seriously?