As Michael said earlier, there are some really good blogs on the list of the 2007 Web Logs award that are worth checking out. I was browsing the contentions blog at Commentary Magazine and happened upon this gem by John Podhoretz and his follow-up about a speech given by Joe Lieberman yesterday.
Wow. I don’t always agree with Lieberman but I do admire his tenacity and independence. The way he fought back to keep his Senate seat in 2006 was incredible. This speech is more so. Excerpts follow; read the whole thing.
Confronted by the totalitarian threats first of fascism and then of communism, Democrats under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy forged a foreign policy that was simultaneously principled, internationalist, and tough-minded.
This was the Democratic Party I grew up in—a party that was unafraid to make moral judgments about the world beyond our borders, to draw a clear line between what Nitze in NSC-68 called “the free world” of the West and the “slave society” behind the Iron Curtain. It was a party that grasped the inextricable link between the survival of freedom abroad and the survival of freedom at home—that recognized, as Nitze wrote, that “the idea of freedom is the most contagious idea in the world.” And it was also a party that understood that a progressive society must be ready and willing to use its military power in defense of its progressive ideals, in order to ensure that those progressive ideals survived.
This was the worldview captured by President Kennedy, when he pledged in his inaugural address that the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
That Democratic foreign policy tradition—the tradition of Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy—collapsed just a few years later, in the trauma of Vietnam. And in its place, a very different worldview took root in the Democratic Party.
By the late 1980s, that tradition had been out of fashion in Democratic circles for twenty years. But then, Democrats had also been out of power for most of those twenty years—something that struck me and many others as more than coincidental. Simply put, the American people didn’t trust Democrats to keep them safe, and the McGovernite legacy was a big reason why.
Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East or to prevail in Afghanistan. It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically-elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush.
Iraq has become the singular litmus test for Democratic candidates. No Democratic presidential primary candidate today speaks of America’s moral or strategic responsibility to stand with the Iraqi people against the totalitarian forces of radical Islam, or of the consequences of handing a victory in Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran. And if they did, their campaign would be as unsuccessful as mine was in 2006. Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus’ new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving, or even that that progress has enabled us to begin drawing down our troops there.
Part of the explanation for this, I think, comes back to ideology. For all of our efforts in the 1990s to rehabilitate a strong Democratic foreign policy tradition, anti-war sentiment remains the dominant galvanizing force among a significant segment of the Democratic base.
Lieberman goes on to give background on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that designatied the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Then:
Although the Senate passed our amendment, 76-22, several Democrats, including some of the Democratic presidential candidates, soon began attacking it—and Senator Clinton, who voted for the amendment. In fact, some of the very same Democrats who had cosponsored the legislation in the spring, urging the designation of the IRGC, began denouncing our amendment for doing the exact same thing.
The problem with the Kyl-Lieberman amendment of course had little to do with its substance, and a lot to do with politics.
I asked some of my Senate colleagues who voted against our amendment: “Do you believe the evidence the military has given us about the IRGC sponsoring these attacks on our troops?” Yes, they invariably said.
“Don’t you support tougher economic sanctions against Iran?” I asked. Again, yes—no question.
So what’s the problem, I asked.
“It’s simple,” they said. “We don’t trust Bush. He’ll use this resolution as an excuse for war against Iran.”
I understand that President Bush is a divisive figure. I recognize the distrust that many Americans feel toward his administration. I recognize the anger and outrage that exists out there about the war in Iraq.
But there is something profoundly wrong—something that should trouble all of us—when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops.
There is likewise something profoundly wrong when we see candidates who are willing to pander to this politically paranoid, hyper-partisan sentiment in the Democratic base—even if it sends a message of weakness and division to the Iranian regime.
Profoundly wrong indeed. How else can the politics of sticking to a misguided, anti-American, and dangerous policy with regard to the fight against international Islamic terrorism be described?
Scoring points is more important to the Democrats than governing the country in a strong, far-sighted fashion. Yet when Democrats have the opportunity to implement a piece of the anti-war agenda they trumpet in the media at every opportunity they back off and allow the Bush administration to move forward.
As Lieberman knows well, Democrats are in the business of talking for the cameras, making profound statements about their moral superiority, then running for cover instead of implementing their ill-considered campaign promises.
If you choose to identify as a Democrat or a Republican, in other words, I encourage each of you to be independent Democrats and independent Republicans.
It may mean that you belong to a smaller and, at times, lonelier caucus. You may even find yourself on the losing end of an election or two. But far more important, you will not lose your convictions about what you believe is best for the security of our great country…
Rock on, Joe.