Friday, June 20, 2003

Carpe Diem
June 20, 2003 - By Thomas Lesh

In the last weeks we Democrats were treated to two appalling examples of why we lost the 2002 elections and are likely to lose in 2004 if we do not begin to assert core Democratic values and wrest control of the party's agenda from its current weak-kneed legislative spokespersons. I refer in particular to Tom Daschle's apologetic questioning of the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and his rather pathetic and craven retraction of those assertions in the face of the usual fury of the Republican attack machine. And to Joe Biden's equally spineless response to the noises being made about maybe attacking Iran sometime soon, where Mr. Biden opined that he really did not have any quarrel with the administration's aims in Iran, only their timing. Just this week, I have read there is considerable debate and misgiving within the party about taking on President Bush over the WMD issue. What if they find some? Didn't people like the war? Didn't the American public find it rather gratifying to vicariously kill lots of defenseless foreigners?

These activities, and one might catalogue so many more, only further demonstrate that there still exists a substantial party cadre who believe that it is possible to wage the 2004 campaign on the same basis as that of 2002. Namely, that people trust the Democrats on economic issues, they will vote economic issues exclusively, and that if only we can get these sluggard's minds off this terrorist stuff for five minutes, they will be consumed with a burning desire to learn everything there is to learn about prescription drug subsidies, realize that our Democratic program is tops, and return us to Congress and the White House with staggering majorities.

I want to assert the obvious counter proposition, that in order to win in 2004, we need to put foreign policy into play. I want to further assert that, at least since 9/11, and probably for a considerable time before that, there is no bipartisan consensus on foreign policy issues in this nation. The Republicans have boldly published a blueprint for world hegemony, a massive defense buildup, and a decade of pre-emptive wars with all their unpredictable consequences. There are some in this party, the Democratic Party, who believe we can agree to this agenda, or overlook it to concentrate on domestic issues, or even portray ourselves as more belligerent and irrational than our opponents.


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