Thomas Friedman has an excellent piece in The New York Times on why the Democrats’ negativity towards the Iraqi elections ignores the reality of the situation:
I think there is much to criticize about how the war in Iraq has been conducted, and the outcome is still uncertain. But those who suggest that the Iraqi election is just beanbag, and that all we are doing is making the war on terrorism worse as a result of Iraq, are speaking nonsense.
Here’s the truth: There is no single action we could undertake anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of terrorism that would have a bigger impact today than a decent outcome in Iraq. It is that important. And precisely because it is so important, it should not be left to Donald Rumsfeld.
Democrats need to start thinking seriously about Iraq – the way Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton have. If France – the mother of all blue states – can do it, so, too, can the Democrats. Otherwise, they will be absenting themselves from the most important foreign policy issue of our day.
The problem is that the Democratic Party is totally and completely focused on George W. Bush. Iraq is only a side issue, something that can be used as a political wedge when things go bad. The Democratic Party has become the party of a million Ahabs, with Bush playing the role of the great White Whale. It’s this kind of myopia that prevents the Democrats from becoming an effective opposition party. The official position of the Democrats has become “whatever Bush does, we do the opposite.” Now that the radicals have taken over the party and put Howlin’ Howard Dean in charge, the situation is likely to get worse, not better.
The Democrats had not been an opposition party in both Congress and the White House between 1954-2000. They’ve never had to formulate a strategy based on political weakness, and it’s become quite clear that they don’t know how. Howard Dean, despite his supposed moderate roots, has become a symbol of the angry anti-Bush left.
If the Democrats were smart, they would have tacked to the center on the Iraq war and not embraced the Kennedy position of immediate withdrawl. They would have ended the specious and irrelevant comparisons to Vietnam. They would have taken the Lieberman/Gephardt line of supporting the war but showing a concrete plan for how to fight the war more effectively. Instead the Democrats pursued a schitzophrenic foreign policy consisting of Kerry’s vague claims to “have a plan” to deal with the issue and the left wing pushing for an immediate and unconditional withdrawl.
The Democrats have missed their chance to show how they can be a relevant opposition party, and until they grow up they will remain a minority party. Friedman gives them some very good ideas for how to get on the right side of history, but it seems that the majority of the Democratic Party would never consider standing with the President, even if it means standing on the wrong side of history.