Monday, September 18, 2006

Rumsfeld: Avoidance Therapy For Some Democrats




The headline in the Hartford Courant said, "Courtney makes war the issue."

But at a press conference called to make a splash, Joe Courtney, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 2nd District, didn't make the war in Iraq the issue.

He made Donald Rumsfeld the issue.

Courtney joined a long line of Democrats, from Joe Lieberman to Hillary Clinton, in saying Rummy should be fired for incompetence.

Sure, he should.

But so what?

This is a "so-whatism" as big as Texas.

And it is straw man to hide behind -- a way to avoid the real issue.

It is the president who should have been fired.

But we missed that chance in 2004.

It is the policy of "stay the course" that must be changed. And the question is how, when, and with what alternative.

Courtney, Lieberman, and Clinton don't really engage that question, which is the question.

Courtney seems to have bought into the Democratic strategy for 2006, which is that Democrats this year don't need to offer an alternative. They need to say only that Bush and Co. have failed and should be held "accountable." They don't have to answer the question, "What next?"

Well, that is a bone-headed strategy for three reasons. First, it is wimpy. Second, you cannot beat something with nothing. (Before you fire one employee, you like to know something about possible replacements). Third, and this follows from the first two reasons, the president and Karl Rove will stuff this strategy down the Democrats' throats. They will go to the country and say: "Look, the terrorist threat is real. We have made many mistakes. But we have a policy and we are pursuing it with conviction. What are they for? What will they do? The Democrats either don't know or are afraid to tell you. Can you really trust people like that more than people who are least trying to do something?"

This line of argument is already in play.

And it will work.

Bush will prevail again and Rove will again be crowned a genius if the Democrats come up with nothing more than "We are not Bush."

And do you know something else?

This Democratic strategy is not only bad politics; it is cowardly and immoral.

We are not talking farm price supports here.

We are talking issues of life and death.

Take a stand, guys.

For the second time in 50 years this nation is engaged in a no-win war based on bad information and bad ideas. Good kids are dying. And for what? A democratic Iraq? Political leaders worthy of the word owe it to the country to take a position. They owe it to the young. A couple days ago the Journal Inquirer published a powerful photograph of two young men in Enfield grieving for their buddy who was killed in Iraq. That soldier and his friends are owed something more than "We didn't do it."

And if Democratic candidates admit that the war -- and not just its commissar -- is a lie and disaster, they are obliged to come up with ideas for ending the war.

Moreover, Democrats like Lieberman and Clinton supported this war. They have a special obligation to lead us out.

And all they can say is "Fire Rumsfeld"?

Shame on them.

It is not Rumsfeld's career that must end.

It is American involvement in the war in Iraq, and indeed the civil war in Iraq itself, that must end.

The problem is not that the Bush administration made mistakes.

Bush and his men can admit that and still win the argument and the election.

The problem is that the war was bogus and based on terrible concepts of foreign policy and combating terror.

What could a new secretary of defense do about that? Or anything else?

Does anyone believe that any person this president would appoint as secretary of defense would disagree with any of his ideas or assumptions?

Would a new secretary be able to make the civil war in Iraq go away?

Would he be able to wave a magic wand and create 500,000 American soldiers?

Could he heal the wounds of families who have lost fathers, sons, husbands, and wives in Iraq?

Could a new defense secretary make us a better war?

No. He could not.

And we don't want a better war, even if it were possible.

We want an end to this war.

If Democrats can't stand against the war and suggest ways to extract our troops in an orderly way and defuse the civil conflict in Iraq and force the president to begin to change course, there is no point in giving them Congress.

The voters will see that.

They are not fools.


Keith C. Burris is editorial page editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

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