The loyal opposition
In this sobering essay, Frank Rich targets the president's refusal to face reality in Iraq and the Democrats' inexcusable failure to muster any kind of sensible alternative to the administration's failures:
It isn't just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan's protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.
When the war's die-hard cheerleaders attacked the Middle East policy of a mother from Vacaville, Calif., instead of defending the president's policy in Iraq, it was definitive proof that there is little cogent defense left to be made. When the Democrats offered no alternative to either Mr. Bush's policy or Ms. Sheehan's plea for an immediate withdrawal, it was proof that they have no standing in the debate.
It gets better:
The Democrats are hoping that if they do nothing, they might inherit the earth as the Bush administration goes down the tubes. Whatever the dubious merits of this Kerryesque course as a political strategy, as a moral strategy it's unpatriotic. The earth may not be worth inheriting if Iraq continues to sabotage America's ability to take on Iran and North Korea, let alone Al Qaeda.
As another politician from the Vietnam era, Gary Hart, observed last week, the Democrats are too cowardly to admit they made a mistake three years ago, when fear of midterm elections drove them to surrender to the administration's rushed and manipulative Iraq-war sales pitch. So now they are compounding the original error as the same hucksters frantically try to repackage the old damaged goods.
The Democrats, of course, face a big problem in that much of their activist base appears to be captive to an intellectually vacant anti-war movement, and as proof let us consider efforts to impede military recruiting. This starve-the-beast mentality might be an appealing short-term strategy for sabotaging the war in Iraq, but what about the next war? We still have a Constitution, my friends, and it still binds presidents to two terms in office. Do we want to leave the next president unable to wage the wars that we have to wage? If you're a pacifist, this might be fine. But I'm not, and I'd like us to leave Iraq able to fight another day.
Now, don't get me wrong; if the military is facing recruiting problems, it's the president I blame far more than any protestors. He's the one that got us into this mess. He's the one that has compromised our ability to respond to real threats to our security. But unless you are willing to take up arms and fight the next battle when it comes, step aside, and let pass those who are.