WSJ on "The Rove Kerfuffle"
Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to . . . submit a petition. I am not joking. Submitting a petition is precisely what Moveon.org did. It was a petition imploring the powers that be" to "use moderation and restraint in responding to the . . . terrorist attacks against the United States."Rove's detractors offer two chief criticisms. The first is that Rove is overgeneralizing--that there are some liberals who are serious about the war. There is, for example, Sen. Joe Lieberman. Another example would be, um--hmmm . . . oh, did we mention Joe Lieberman? You see what we mean: This is a quibble.
I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt as I watched the Twin Towers crumble to the earth; a side of the Pentagon destroyed; and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble.
Moderation and restraint is not what I felt--and moderation and restraint is not what was called for. It was a moment to summon our national will--and to brandish steel.
MoveOn.org, Michael Moore and Howard Dean may not have agreed with this, but the American people did. Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said: We will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said: We must understand our enemies.
The second criticism is that Rove is lumping together mainstream liberals with far-left nut-jobs like MoveOn.org, which did indeed start a petition, and Michael Moore, whose response on Sept. 12, 2001, was to lament that al Qaeda had attacked Democratic states instead of Republican ones.
Not for nothing did Andrew Sullivan famously warn on Sept. 16 that "the decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts . . . may well mount what amounts to a fifth column." Yet elected Democrats by and large did not respond this way in the weeks after 9/11, as John Kerry recalled in an e-mail to supporters the other day:
That, of course, is what is most outrageous about Karl Rove's claim that President Bush's political opponents offered "therapy and understanding for our attackers." It isn't true. In the days after 9/11, there were no Democrats, no Republicans. We were all Americans, standing together. President Bush acknowledged that unity in a clear and compelling way at the time.
"One of the overlooked aspects of the war we are now fighting is the awakening it has spawned on the left," Sullivan wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 4, 2001:
In one atrocity, Osama bin Laden may have accomplished what a generation of conservative writers have failed to do: convince mainstream liberals of the illogic and nihilism of the powerful postmodern left. For the first time in a very long while, many liberals are reassessing--quietly for the most part--their alliance with the anti-American, anticapitalist forces they have long appeased, ignored or supported.But the mainstream liberals proved far from steadfast, as Sullivan noted in a blog entry on March 13, 2002 (ellipsis in original):
THE ANTI-WAR DEMOCRATS: They're not exactly shouting from the rooftops. But they sure have their wetted fingers hoisted in the air. Janet Reno says in Florida that "I have trouble with a war that has no endgame and I have trouble with a war that generates so many concerns about individual liberties." Notice she doesn't say that the war has violated individual liberties, or that she believes that, but merely that there are "so many concerns" about it. Has there been any war in which such concerns have not been raised?This is more or less the same as what Rove said last week--and Sullivan's observations came barely six months after 9/11, before the Democrats did these among many other things:
The Richmond Times-Dispatch also reports that "the former U.S. attorney general said she thinks the government would be hard-pressed to find a legal basis to prosecute many of the Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners being detained at Guantanamo Bay." Oh, let them go, then. Back to Sandy Berger and letting bin Laden escape from Sudan to Afghanistan. Do these people ever learn?
And then there's Senator John Kerry. As a Vietnam vet, he'll be the front man for those Democrats desperate to dispel the war atmosphere that could realign American politics away from dovish liberals for decades. Senator Hillary Clinton spelled out the formula in Boston at a Kerry fund-raiser: "John's leadership is critical to where we plan to go in this world. We need people of the stature and the experience of John Kerry . . . asking the hard questions. We are having the debate Congress is required to have--where to go, what to do."
Like most things Senator Clinton says, this is unobjectionable on its face. But its intent is clear. Some Democrats are simply uncomfortable about America having a strong and unapologetic role in the world. This isn't treason; it's weakness. And weakness in the dangerous world we face is an invitation for more terror. Be warned.
* Made MoveOn.org a center of their grass-roots political effort and a frequent speaking venue for former and current Democratic officials, including Al Gore, Robert Byrd and Harry Reid.
* Embraced Michael Moore, giving him an honored seat at the party convention in Boston last July. When Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11"--surely the crassest effort to politicize the attacks--had its Washington premiere, many Democrats showed up, including the party's then-chairman, Terry McAuliffe, and its then-Senate leader, Tom Daschle. "There might be half of the Democratic Senate here," then-senator Bob Graham of Florida observed.
* Nominated for president a man who opportunistically opposed the liberation of Iraq after having voted for it (or opportunistically voted for it before opposing it, or both), and who cast a protest vote against funding the troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
* Made a whole host of statements that reflect precisely the attitude Rove imputes to them--from Sen. Patty Murray's description of Osama bin Laden as a philanthropist who builds, among other things, "day care centers" to Sen. Dick Durbin's Nazi calumny. GayPatriot has a list.
It seems clear that the rupture between the "decadent left" and the mainstream of the Democratic Party was short-lived, and that the latter has largely made its peace with the former, whether out of conviction or out of base-assuaging political necessity. In any case, if Democrats and liberals don't like being portrayed as weak, let them show some strength. Whining about Rove's remarks is not an auspicious start.