(Page 2 of 2)
Terry Szuplat is a 29-year-old who worked as a speechwriter in Clinton's Pentagon. "Every military engagement that I've lived through has been short, has been relatively unbloody compared to Vietnam. That has to have an impact," he says. "This is the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy and Truman, strong leaders on national defense. And look where our party is today. It's tragic."
Or take Steven J. Naplan, a 32-year-old veteran of Clinton's National Security Council staff. Clinton's message, he thinks, got it right: "Use force with others when possible, but alone if we must." But Democrats have abandoned that posture for something more like, "Only with others, never alone." Naplan says, "We need to invest just as much energy in expressing our determination to protect the American people, and that the projection of American power can be a very good thing in the world, as we do in advocating a multilateral path to that end."
Instead, Democratic members of Congress travel to Baghdad and, from Iraqi soil, criticize the Bush administration. What happens to them? Nothing. "What the Republicans did to Trent Lott was at a _minimum_ what the Democrats should have done to the Baghdad Two," says Bergreen, referring to Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich. Then, even after voting to give President Bush authority to make war, Democrats hem and haw, seek to change the subject to domestic issues, and try last-minute stalling actions.
"Democrats who voted for Bush to be authorized to use force need to stand up and be counted a little more on this, and talk to the rank and file about why this is important, and I'm not hearing much of that," Bergreen says. "What I'm hearing is a lot of positioning. The hemming and hawing and hand-wringing and calls for more time -- they're a day late and a dollar short. And Democrats who make those arguments at this point are wounding the party politically."
But what about Democratic primary voters? About 60 percent of core Democratic partisans -- versus about 30 percent of all likely voters -- tell pollsters that Bush is focusing on Iraq to seize oil, avenge his father and distract attention from a stricken economy. "I'm looking for somebody to stop this war," an Iowa Democrat named Enid told The American Prospect at a candidate forum in January. Aren't hawkish Democrats doomed in primaries dominated by Enids?
Soon, replies Bergreen, America will go to war with Iraq. The war will be quick, and the Americans will be greeted as liberators, and the full truth about the Iraqi regime will come out. The prestige of forceful Democrats will go up -- sharply. Even many leftist Democrats may come to see that McGovernism is a ticket to oblivion.
"Sometime in the spring of 2003, I'm going to be proved right," says Bergreen. "And this thing's going to take off."