Tom Daschle, Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt, Ted Kennedy, and Wesley Clark are all appalled, shocked, scandalized by the new RNC ad entitled "Reality": On MEET THE PRESS, Daschle called it "repulsive and outrageous," and stated his belief that the Republicans "ought to pull the ad." "We all want to defeat terrorism," he said, but "to chastise and to question the patriotism of those who are in opposition to some of the president's plans I think is wrong." Ted Kennedy spoke of an "attempt to stifle dissent." Clark spoke of the president violating his "pledge... to not exploit 9-11 for political purposes."
The 30-second ad in in its entirety runs as follows:
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: "It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
CHYRON: Strong and Principled Leadership
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: "Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power."
CHYRON: Some are now attacking the President for attacking the terrorists.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?"
CHYRON: Some call for us to retreat, putting our national security in the hands of others.
CHYRON: Call Congress Now
CHYRON: Tell them to support the President's policy of preemptive self-defense.
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ED GILLESPIE: "The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising."
CHYRON: Ed Gillespie
CHYRON: Chairman, RNC
CHYRON: The Republican National Committee paid for and is responsible for the content of this advertising. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee. www.gop.com
As Professor Dauber has patiently ranted at Ranting Profs, strongly disagreeing with someone else's "model of strategic defense" is not the same as impugning their patriotism. This argument would be valid - indeed, it should be self-evident to anyone who claims to favor any discussion of policy alternatives at all - even if the ad mentioned the Democrats, or for that matter even mentioned 9/11, or for that matter came right out and said, "Those Democrats, especially Daschle, Kennedy, Clark, Kerry, and Dean are pushing a totally back-assward response to 9/11 that would destroy the country if followed." Of course, the ad does not even mention 9/11. It doesn't even specifically identify those calling for "retreat," or make any statements about anyone's love of country. All in all, it's kind of soft, even cerebral, as 30-second political ads go. Osama Horton it's not.
When the ad was first unveiled last week, I watched Donna Brazile on CNN move in the space of one sentence from bemoaning the supposedly unfair attack to noting that the Bush excerpts came from a speech "proved to be a pack of lies." Ms. Brazile must have been thinking of the Summer talking point that falsely accused Bush of lying about the supposed Iraq-Niger uranium connection. Recycling this old Bush-lied lie was not enough for her: She chose to compound it. Since then, up to today's political shows, Democratic leaders, candidates and consultants have all been offering variations on the same theme. Someone, somewhere in the Democrat braintrust seems to have decided that counterattack, rather than active defense of Democratic policy alternatives, was the way to go. They don't seem to mind that this unanimous response amounts to the entire party standing up, raising their hands, and shouting, "It's us! We're the ones in favor of retreat and putting our national security in the hands of others! All of us!"
What the Democrats otherwise ALL seem to be saying is that it's okay - totally peachy and anyone who disagrees is squelching free speech - for them to accuse Bush & Co. of wasting lives in Iraq through incompetence and corruption, of intentionally letting Osama go free, of lying over and over again on matters of the highest life-and-death importance, of destroying the Constitution, of, as Clark would have it especially, committing the greatest strategic blunder since Napoleon marched on Russia (if not since Alcibiades went after Syracuse), and on and on and on day after day after day - but that any response at all, even if it's just a few generalizations describing the Bush strategy, excerpts from widely seen speeches, and suggestions that those who disagree might be WRONG in a way that might MATTER, goes beyond the bounds of acceptable political discourse.
Yeah, that sure sounds fair!
What the Democrats are really afraid of is that Bush has not yet begun to fight, and, even more, that he may not have to fight very hard. They know that they are on the wrong side of contemporary history, that what Marxists might call the "political conjuncture" simply does not favor them: Bush is heading into '04 with the incumbent advantage, the united party advantage, the recovering economy advantage, the in-party during wartime advantage, and the traditional Republican financial advantage. Much could of course change between now and November of next year, but these factors as well as long-developing social, economic, and demographic trends suggest at least the possibility of an historical re-alignment that puts the Democrats in long-term minority status, if it doesn't sooner or later send them the way of the Whigs.
If they were just a little bit more grown-up, intelligent, credible, or honorable in their apparent desperation, it would be easier to forgive and even feel sorry for them.