Listening to losers
By Alan Caruba
In mid-summer, the Washington Post published an opinion editorial by former Colorado Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart. It embodied all the usual arguments against having invaded Iraq and for staying on until the Iraqis can begin to fashion a free nation with a constitution agreed to by its people.
I recall thinking to myself, why would anyone pay any attention to the advice of such a loser? You may think me harsh, but let's very briefly look at his record. In 1972, Hart was the campaign manager for Sen. George McGovern, the Democrat candidate for president. McGovern suffered an historic defeat, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. In 1984 and 1988, Hart made a bid to be his party's candidate for president.
In the latter effort, rumors circulated that he was having an extramarital affair. He publicly dismissed them, but a stakeout on his DC townhouse revealed the departure of an attractive young woman one evening in May 1987. This was during the time Hart was actively campaigning. That same month, word got out that Hart had spent a night in Bimini on a sailboat named Monkey Business with someone other than his wife Lee. A photo of then 29-year-old model, Donna Rice, sitting on the lap of Hart sunk his presidential aspirations.
Hart subsequently returned to the practice of law, remaining on the periphery of politics ever since. In 1998, then President Clinton asked him to co-chair a bipartisan commission to study homeland security. Clearly, the commission's findings were ignored, despite several calling for broad changes to security policies.
He was wrong on McGovern, who ran and lost on a platform opposing the US involvement in Vietnam, and his judgment regarding his personal life, i.e., marital fidelity, and conduct in the run-up to his second effort to receive his party's nomination, suggests that any advice offered by Gary Hart should be approached with care.
Hart is still mired in the mindset of those who opposed the Vietnam War. I am not here to argue that any of the judgments from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon were correct. In the hindsight of history, the famed "domino theory" of the time, fearing the loss of any nation to a communist takeover in the midst of the Cold War, the decisions taken by successive presidents only yielded the body bags of dead heroes. The fact that Johnson literally lied the nation into a wider conflict has left a bitter legacy for presidents who followed.
It is telling that Hart began his anti-war diatribe quoting from a song from the Vietnam era, "Waist-deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool said to push on." The loss of the Vietnam War, in Hart's judgment, signaled "the decline of the Democratic Party, a gateway through which a new conservative era entered." On the other hand, it could be argued that battling Communism, a process that was deeply ingrained in American history and which took on greater importance after World War Two, is quintessentially conservative. It was a battle that was waged no matter which party held the presidency.
The Democrats lost to Nixon, to Reagan, and to Bush41 and Bush43 because voters perceived them to be weak on the protection of American interests at home and around the world.
So, when Hart tells us that, "History will deal with George Bush and the neo-conservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world, diverting National Guard and reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold war, accumulating staggering deficits, misdirecting revenue from education to rebuilding Iraqi buildings we've blown up and weakening American's national security," we need to approach such bombast with the understanding that he's probably as wrong in 2005 as he was in 1972.
"The real defeatists today," wrote Hart, "are not those protesting the war." Wrong again. Indeed, if there were any real support for this point of view, antiwar protests would not still be organized by groups who think Communism produces anything other than ghulags and mass murder.
The recent poster child for antiwar protests is Cindy Sheehan, portrayed as a grieving mother of a fallen hero. It has since been revealed that she abandoned the raising of her son to her first husband and that her second husband is in the process of divorcing her. No one in her immediate family has a good word for her. The only support she could muster in Crawford was from Joan Baez, Martin Sheen, and the mainstream news media.
Why would the Washington Post and, subsequently, other newspapers publish Hart's opinion, given such an abysmal record of personal and public failures? Why would anyone pay any attention to someone still arguing the merits of the Vietnam War and trying to use it as the template for our efforts in the Middle East against a totally different enemy?
I hope the Democrat Party heeds Hart's advice regarding the war and finds yet another antiwar candidate. It has managed to reduce itself to being a party of obstruction and appeasement, devoted entirely to Clinton's politics of personal destruction. Only it is the destruction of the party that will occur as Americans warily eye the Middle East, the continued acts of terrorism around the world, and, in particular, the prospect of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.
Choosing to withdraw from this new challenge; choosing to abandon our moral and military obligations to the Afghan and Iraqi peoples; choosing to believe that France, Germany or Russia are our real allies; choosing to believe the United Nations is of any value; choosing to withdraw to the utterly false notion of a Fortress America, would be the defeat of everything America has stood for in the past and stands for now.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, 2005
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