[Marxism] Shit hitting the fan for the Democratic Party

M. Junaid Alam alam1 at lefthook.org
Mon Aug 22 00:29:34 MDT 2005


*washingtonpost.com* <http://www.washingtonpost.com/>*Democrats Split 
Over Position on Iraq War*
Activists More Vocal As Leaders Decline To Challenge Bush

By Peter Baker and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 22, 2005; A01

Democrats say a long-standing rift in the party over the Iraq war has 
grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected 
leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience 
from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush 
aggressively to withdraw troops.

Amid rising casualties and falling public support for the war, Democrats 
of all stripes have grown more vocal this summer in criticizing Bush's 
handling of the war. A growing chorus of Democrats, however, has said 
this criticism should be harnessed to a consistent message and 
alternative policy -- something most Democratic lawmakers have refused 
to offer.

The wariness, congressional aides and outside strategists said in 
interviews last week, reflects a belief among some in the opposition 
that proposals to force troop drawdowns or otherwise limit Bush's 
options would be perceived by many voters as defeatist. Some operatives 
fear such moves would exacerbate the party's traditional vulnerability 
on national security issues.

The internal schism has become all the more evident in recent weeks even 
as Americans have soured on Bush and the war in poll after poll. Senate 
Democrats, according to aides, convened a private meeting in late June 
to develop a cohesive stance on the war and debated every option -- only 
to break up with no consensus.

The rejuvenation of the antiwar movement in recent days after the mother 
of a soldier killed in Iraq set up camp near Bush's Texas ranch has 
exposed the rift even further.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) broke with his party leadership last week 
to become the first senator to call for all troops to be withdrawn from 
Iraq by a specific deadline. Feingold proposed Dec. 31, 2006. In 
delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address yesterday, former senator 
Max Cleland (Ga.), a war hero who lost three limbs in Vietnam, declared 
that "it's time for a strategy to win in Iraq or a strategy to get out."

Although critical of Bush, the party's establishment figures -- 
including Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), Sen. Joseph R. 
Biden Jr. (Del.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) -- all reject 
the Feingold approach, reasoning that success in Iraq at this point is 
too important for the country.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who rose to public 
prominence on an antiwar presidential campaign, said on television a 
week ago that it was the responsibility of the president, not the 
opposition, to come up with a plan for Iraq.

"Clearly Democrats are not united in what is the critique of what we're 
doing there and what is the answer to what we do next," said Steve 
Elmendorf, a senior party strategist whose former boss, then-House 
Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), voted in 2002 to authorize 
the invasion of Iraq. "The difficulty of coming to a unified position is 
that for a lot of people who voted for it, they have to decide whether 
they can admit that they were misled."

The internal disarray, according to many Democrats, reflects more than a 
near-term tactical debate. Some say it reveals a fundamental identity 
crisis in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world for a party that struggled to 
move beyond the antiwar legacy of the 1960s and 1970s to reinvent itself 
as tougher on national security in the 1990s.

But historic fault lines in the party run deep. Along with high gasoline 
prices, the war has fed public discontent that is expressing itself as 
members of Congress tour their home districts during the August recess. 
Democratic officeholders watched carefully last week as peace 
demonstrators -- inspired by grieving mother-turned-activist Cindy 
Sheehan outside Bush's ranch near Crawford, Tex. -- staged more than 
1,000 candlelight vigils across the country.

They also took note of the strong showing of Democrat Paul Hackett, an 
Iraq veteran turned war critic who nearly snatched away a Republican 
House seat in a special election in Ohio this month. House Democratic 
leaders now are recruiting other Iraq veterans to run in next year's 
midterm elections.

"It is time to stand up and begin questioning the president's 
leadership," said Steve Jarding, a Democratic consultant who ran the 
2001 state campaign of Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, now a potential 
presidential candidate. "I think the Democrats need to do that. . . . 
The American public is ready to say, 'Enough is enough.' "

Feingold said, "We have to go on the offensive to show the American 
people that we're not afraid to disagree." He said that he believes an 
immediate withdrawal does not make military sense but that the public 
needs reassurance that the Iraq operation is moving purposefully toward 
completion. "We need to talk in Congress about this more openly and 
freely," Feingold said. "There's a rudderless quality that is making 
[people] nervous."

The potency of antiwar sentiment within the party's base could be seen 
in the enthusiasm expressed for Feingold among liberal Internet bloggers 
in the days after he made his withdrawal proposal. Unscientific Internet 
polls showed support rising for a Feingold presidential run in 2008.

Liberal bloggers have lambasted the party leadership for missed 
opportunities. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee conducted a 
confirmation hearing for Bush confidante Karen Hughes, tapped as the 
next undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, not a single Democrat 
showed up to grill her on administration policy.

"Excuse me, but do you ENJOY being in the minority?" complained an entry 
that day on Think Progress, the blog for the Center for American 
Progress, a think tank run by former Clinton White House chief of staff 
John D. Podesta. While publicly quiet, Podesta has been one of many 
influential voices behind the scenes calling for a louder, more frequent 
drumbeat on the war, along with members of a national security group 
that advises congressional Democrats.

Turning Iraq into a sharply partisan issue, however, carries deep risks 
for Democrats and the country, others warn. "Credit the Democrats for 
not trying to pour more gasoline on the fire, even if they're not 
particularly unified in their message," said Michael McCurry, a former 
Clinton White House press secretary. "Democrats could jump all over them 
and try to pin Bush down on it, but I'm not sure it would do anything 
but make things worse. The smartest thing for Democrats to do is be 

And some argue that Democrats do not need to craft an alternative 
policy, deeming it better simply to let Bush struggle on his own. "The 
need for a coherent alternative mattered more when the benefit of the 
doubt went to the commander in chief," said Jeremy Rosner of Greenberg 
Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm. "Now he's getting to 
a dicey range of public opinion."

Still, the Democratic discord has provided solace for Bush advisers at a 
difficult time. Although Bush's approval ratings have sunk, the 
Democrats have gained no ground at his expense. In a Washington Post-ABC 
News poll in June, just 42 percent of Americans approved of 
congressional Democrats, a figure even lower than Bush's.

Republican strategists chortle at the Democrats' inability to fashion a 
coherent message on the war. The Republican National Committee on Friday 
released a series of contrasting Democratic statements on troop 
withdrawals. "Instead of attacking our president's resolve," RNC 
spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said in a statement, "Democrats might want to 
focus on the debate within their own party."

One problem for Democrats is that even when they do speak up about Iraq, 
they draw little attention. In late June, congressional Democrats and 
Republicans spent three evenings on the House floor reading the names of 
the 1,719 soldiers who had died in the war to that point. In July, 
Democrats wrote a stern letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld 
demanding more details about White House plans for Iraq and released a 
comprehensive study of administration failures to meet reporting 
requirements on the war.

It was all drowned out by the president's Supreme Court nomination, the 
London bombings and other news. "Many of us are talking about the war, 
talking about the costs," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the 
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who is leading the effort 
to recruit Iraq veterans to run next year.

Some Democrats suspect the Iraq debate will escalate once Congress 
reconvenes after Labor Day. Senate Democrats said they would push to 
revive the Defense Department authorization bill, shelved by Republican 
leaders before the break in anticipation of a blizzard of Democratic 
amendments, many addressing the Iraq war.

"The American people are much farther ahead in their thinking about the 
war than the White House or the Republican Congress," said Sen. Edward 
M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). "They understand we can't continue down this same 
failed course in Iraq."

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