The NY Times writes about the Democratic vote on the Military Commissions bill in a hopelessly Panglossian manner. The fact that only 32 Senate Democrats voted to oppose the bill somehow shows President Bush’s weakening grip on the national security debate:
The Democratic vote in the Senate on Thursday against legislation governing the treatment of terrorism suspects showed that party leaders believe that President Bush’s power to wield national security as a political issue is seriously diminished.
The most vivid example of the Democratic assessment came from the party’s many presidential hopefuls in the Senate. All of them voted against the bill, apparently calculating that Mr. Bush’s handling of Iraq has undercut the traditional Republican strength on national security and will insulate them from what are certain to be strong attacks from Republicans not only this year but also in 2008.
What this assessment omits is the fact that 12 Democrats (nearly 25%) broke ranks and pussyfooted on over to the Republican side in an act of supreme cowardice. Yes, many of them are in tough re-election fights. But they seem to believe that their constituents would never understand in the heat of an election battle the nuance of such ‘abstruse’ issues as habeus corpus, the Geneva Conventions and torture.
But I liked best Christopher Dodd’s characterization of their gutlessness:
“The only reason to worry about the politics of it is if you don’t understand it and don’t have the guts to stand up and defend your vote,” said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, who is considering a presidential race.
And I might add: if you don’t have faith in the intelligence of your constituents and their ability to understand fundamental constitutional issues.
I do hope that Ned Lamont has those TV commercials all cued up which will grind Lieberman’s nose in his Aye vote today. May Ol’ Joe live to regret betraying the few Democratic principles he once had with this vote.
The Times tries to argue that today’s vote marks a break from the Democratic acquiescence to the Bush Iraq war resolution. Somehow the fact that only 75% of Senate Dems voted against this is a victory or sign of having a political spine:
It was a stark change from four years ago, when Mr. Bush cornered Democrats into another defining pre-election vote on security issues — that one to give the president the authority to launch an attack against Iraq. At the time, many Democrats felt they had little choice politically but to side with Mr. Bush, and a majority of Senate Democrats backed him.
…Party strategists have concluded, however, that Democrats can hold their own politically with Republicans on security issues and that voters no longer give Mr. Bush such wide latitude in the fight against terrorism. Democrats believe they can rebut the stinging attack to come by persuading Americans that the tribunal bill was rushed for political reasons and overturned basic rights like the ability to challenge one’s incarceration.
SOME “Democrats believe they can rebut the stinging attack to come.” And others still haven’t learned anything from the Iraq war vote. They’re like Bill Murray on Groundhog Day. Every opportunity they get to undo the damage their earlier vote wrought they politely decline in order to cozy up to the national security zealots. It’s downright unseemly.
To be fair, the article did acknowledge the problem of Democratic weakness in one passage:
Yet the minority of Democrats who joined with Republicans in passing the bill again illustrated that the party is unable to speak with one voice on security issues. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat up for re-election who often breaks with his party, said he was willing to follow the lead of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who lent the final legislation his strong endorsement. Mr. McCain is a potential Republican presidential candidate.
“I think people respect Senator McCain on these issues,” Mr. Nelson said, “and I think he probably represents the views of a lot of people in Nebraska.”
When a Democrat has to fawn all over a Republican hawk like McCain in order to win re-election as a Democrat, you know something’s wrong. Maybe Nelson hasn’t yet heard that McCain’s running for president on the other party’s ticket. One wonders whether, if it was a choice between Hillary, Kerry or Gore whether he’d be able to hold his nose and vote against John “What the Hell is Habeus Anyway?” McCain. It’s times like this when you really miss having a man of spine and principle like Bob Kerrey representing Nebraska.