A tale of two liberals

Posted: Sep 27, 2002 12:00 AM
MINNEAPOLIS -- Al Gore returned to the political stage last week just as he left it 17 months ago -- as a man who just can't make peace with the concepts of truthfulness and honesty, and has never been able to lasso his wild imagination. Speaking in San Francisco, Al launched a blistering attack on President George W. Bush's policy toward Iraq and our military's effort in the war on terrorism. Al's diatribe, in which he accused the president of having "squandered the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity" since Sept. 11, was as wrong as it was mean-spirited. In Gore's typical haughty style, his pronouncement was delivered from on high and lacked evidence to support his outrageous claims. Gore ignored the hundreds of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, those who were recently apprehended in Buffalo and Singapore, the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the fact that 19 hijacker terrorists died on Sept. 11, and began by criticizing President Bush for not focusing on "those who attacked us on Sept. 11." Several times throughout his speech, Gore tried to trivialize the military's efforts by referring to the war on terrorism as the "war against Osama bin Laden" and said Iraq -- a state sponsor of terrorism -- has nothing to do with the war on terrorism. But Gore's old buddy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, disagrees. Last week, Blair released a 50-page dossier detailing Saddam Hussein's post-1992 rearmament with weapons of mass destruction. And as for Al's assertion that Bush has "squandered" American support, he should look again at the leaders in Italy, Spain, Australia and the Czech Republic, who have courageously embraced the fight against terrorism. In Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and other Muslim countries, Al Qaeda operatives are being detained by the U.S. military and local authorities. So just what is Al talking about? Is he referring to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose leftist Social Democrat party won a tight re-election by trashing the United States, most memorably when one of Schroeder's Cabinet ministers compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler and was summarily dismissed the day after the election? Beyond Germany, it's difficult to identify any country where anti-Americanism is on the upswing. To be sure, the United States has enemies and, ironically, they appear to be in countries that Gore is most concerned about insulating from accountability. In his San Francisco speech, Gore also denounced the Bush administration's new strategic doctrine of "pre-emption," which holds that the United States has the right to act against aggressor states and terrorists before they have an opportunity to attack us. For Gore, this strategic doctrine has ominous implications. "The very logic of the concept suggests a string of military engagements against a succession of sovereign states," he worried. Let me get this straight. Al Gore, who once reassured the families of fallen U.S. military personnel that they could be proud their husbands and sons "died in the service of the United Nations," now supports national sovereignty? But Gore's attack, which was meant to position him as the leader of the Democrat pack, was too much for even his fellow Democrats. In the wake of his speech, Gore's protege, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut reiterated his support for President Bush's stand against Iraq. Embattled Democrat Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey dismissed Gore's speech as "not relevant," adding, "I don't think it has any effect on Democrats' thinking at all." Even Tom Daschle, when he wasn't throwing a tantrum on the Senate floor, resisted joining Gore's appeasement caucus. And while Gore was trying to make liberalism relevant in America by taking shots at the Bush administration, liberal British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been demonstrating real statesmanship. "It is an 11-year history," Blair explained, "of lies told by Saddam about the existence of his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, obstruction, defiance and denial. We know, again from our history, that diplomacy, not backed by threat of force, has never worked with dictators and never will." Although Blair remains a committed liberal, he isn't naive about world affairs. Contrast that with Gore's equivocation on Iraq. Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, echoed Blair's sentiments, observing: "History is littered with the desire of decent people to give the likes of Saddam Hussein a second chance. He has had 10 years of second chances. Now surely is the time to act." Both Blair and Duncan Smith have emerged as critical allies in America's war on terrorism. They have not forgotten Winston Churchill's parting counsel, on the day of his 1955 resignation, when he implored his countrymen to never be separated from the Americans. A few years before Churchill's prophetic words, a powerful work titled "The God That Failed" collected the accounts of several prominent intellectuals, including Arthur Koestler and Richard Wright, who had once been communists, before becoming disillusioned with communism and rejecting it in favor of freedom. The book was edited by a liberal parliamentary member named Richard Crossman, who concluded that liberals had to oppose communism with the same intensity and patriotism that conservatives like Churchill did. Richard Crossman appears to have a worthy successor in Tony Blair. As for Al Gore, the only place he's likely to be elected is Germany.