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December 19, 2005

Democrats: Still Weak on National Security

John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics has an intriguing column today that suggests that Democrats may be setting themselves up for political disaster with their continued offensive against the President and his policy towards Iraq and terrorism (Hat tip: Power Line):

First, the Democrats still do not grasp that foreign affairs and national security issues are their vulnerabilities, not their strengths. All of the drumbeat about Iraq, spying, and torture that the left thinks is so damaging to the White House are actually positives for the President and Republicans. Apparently, Democrats still have not fully grasped that the public has profound and long-standing concerns about their ability to defend the nation. As long as national security related issues are front page news, the Democrats are operating at a structural political disadvantage. Perhaps the intensity of their left wing base and the overwhelmingly liberal press corps produces a disorientation among Democratic politicians and prevents a more realistic analysis of where the country’s true pulse lies on these issues.

With their publicly defeatist language, John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean reinforce these “soft on security” steroretypes, a weakness that more sober-minded Democrats have been trying to mitigate since the late 60’s and 70’s. Unfortunately, this mentality dominates the Democrats’ political base and more accurately represents where the heart and soul of the modern Democratic party lies than the very tiny sliver of Joe Lieberman Democrats. The Party of FDR, Truman and John Kennedy -- at least on foreign policy -- is clearly no more.

McIntyre goes on to argue that the continued claims of torture, wiretapping, and wrongful imprisonment of suspected terrorists only reinforces the public's perception that Democrats are not only wrong on foreign policy but cannot be trusted. In fact, he argues that while the public may not be completely excited about such policies, they accept it as part of fighting the war on terror:

The public resents the overkill from Abu Ghraib and the hand-wringing over whether captured terrorists down in Gitmo may have been mistreated. They want Kahlid Mohamed, one of the master minds of 9/11 and a top bin Laden lieutanent, to be water-boarded if our agents on the ground think that is what necessary to get the intel we need. They want the CIA to be aggressively rounding up potential terrorists worldwide and keeping them in “black sites” in Romania or Poland or wherever, because the public would rather have suspected terrorists locked away in secret prisons in Bulgaria than plotting to kill Americans in Florida or California or New York.

The public also has the wisdom to understand that when you are at war mistakes will be made. You can’t expect 100% perfection. So while individuals like Kahled Masri may have been mistakenly imprisoned, that is the cost of choosing to aggressively fight this enemy. Everyone understands that innocents were killed and imprisoned mistakenly in World War II. Had we prosecuted WWII with the same concern for the enemy’s “rights” the outcome very well might have been different.

To top it off, McIntyre calls the Democrats' bluff over the "spying" outrage by suggesting (rightly) that whoever was responsible for leaking this story should be prosecuted:

If Democrats want to make this spying “outrage” a page one story they are fools walking right into a trap. Now that this story is out and the security damage is already done, let’s have a full investigation into exactly who the President spied on and why. Let’s also find out who leaked this highly classified information and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. If the president is found to have broken the law and spied on political opponents or average Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism, then Bush should be impeached and convicted.

But unlike Senator Levin, who claimed on Meet The Press yesterday not to know what the President’s motives were when he authorized these eavesdropping measures, I have no doubt that the President’s use of this extraordinary authority was solely an attempt to deter terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies. Let the facts and the truth come out, but the White House’s initial response is a pretty powerful signal that they aren’t afraid of where this is heading.

As long as Democrats continue to sound the drumbeat of defeatism, it's a safe bet they will lose politically. Americans may not like all of the steps the President is taking to protect them. But they understand that something must be done and that it is better to be on the offensive against terrorism than sitting back and waiting for them to strike again.

Posted by Tom at December 19, 2005 12:05 PM

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Tom writes: To top it off, McIntyre calls the Democrats' bluff over the "spying" outrage by suggesting (rightly) that whoever was responsible for leaking this story should be prosecuted.

I'll be more impressed if the GOP-controlled Department of Justice actually has the stones to "call that bluff," because I too would dearly love to see the government bring a charge of mishandling classified information against somebody in this case. Here's a free clue: it isn't the Democrats who are preventing that from going forward.

I repeat: I would LOVE IT if the GOP-controlled DOJ were to bring charges over these leaks. I would cheer from the rooftops.

Posted by: s9 at December 19, 2005 05:06 PM

I think McIntyre is wrong. I think the public is divided, but the majority of us believes in a US that does not start wars, that does not torture, that does not spy on her own citizens and that the majority thinks that true national security will not come by making us public enemy #1 in the world.

Others will disagree. They'd paint a target on us and say, "Go on. I dare ya."

But then, others are nuts.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at December 19, 2005 06:06 PM