The Competing Bush Haters

I couldn’t help but notice the headlines over the past weekend. One Democrat after another was trying to get his or her digs in against President Bush and his policy on Iraq. From Hollywood to presidential candidates to ex-First Lady to ex-president, it was a round robin of verbal assaults.

Of course, as we’ve established here earlier, Democrats have no choice but to criticize President Bush on Iraq. The economy appears to be doing well, national security is the main game, and Democrats have no ticket. They can’t even find any scalpers. When it comes to their credibility on defense, the public’s not buying it. But that doesn’t keep them from hammering away.

For the umpteenth time, former President Jimmy Carter just violated the unwritten rule against ex-presidents blasting sitting presidents by slamming President Bush’s foreign policy. But at least Carter is not a hater. The same can’t be said about the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates.

Indeed, hatred for President Bush has become one of the major factors in the contest among these nine contenders. The front-runner, Howard Dean, leads the pack not because of his policy prescriptions, but because he has packaged his hatred toward Bush into a marketable commodity to the liberal grassroots. Dean seems to wear permanent rage on his rolled-up shirtsleeves and is a perfect medium for carrying the anti-Bush banner.

Last Sunday in New Hampshire, Dean blasted Bush as having “no understanding of defense” and of conducting diplomacy by “petulance.” According to Dean, Bush has “made us weaker.” In order to defend this country, he said, “you have to have a high moral purpose.”

Interesting, I could have sworn “Petulance” was old Howard’s middle name. And what’s this about a higher moral purpose? I thought one of the Democrats’ principal complaints about Mr. Bush was that he was too moralistic. “He sees the world in simplistic moral terms, of black and white, of good and evil,” they often say.

Of all things Bush has excelled in, it’s articulating a moral purpose for the War on Terror. And he has been very explicit and emphatic about that. I just wonder what type of higher moral purpose Mr. Dean has in mind. Don’t you think defending this nation from terrorists and taking the offensive against them and their nation-state sponsors is noble enough a cause?

Next, Dean criticized Bush for not maintaining troop morale. Well, the last time I checked, it was Dean and his Democratic colleagues who were undercutting the president’s war efforts every step of the way. It was no less a Democrat luminary than Senator Hillary Clinton who made a junket to Iraq to tell the troops that people at home were questioning their commander in chief’s policies in Iraq.

What do you Democrats think that does for troop morale? Do you care — or is undermining the president too high a priority to be sacrificed over silly concerns about troop morale — the kind of silly concerns about which Howard Dean pretends to be agitated. I wonder how Mr. Dean would square his fervent opposition to the war with encouraging high troop morale?

Meanwhile, the candidate Democrats thought would give them “gravitas” on national defense, Wesley Clark, is gallivanting around the country exhibiting his lack of gravitas and his poor judgment on matters of national defense. Imagine that, a four-star general lacking judgment — or at least letting his political ambitions cloud it.

Yes, the general is telling us we shouldn’t have gone to Iraq in the first place and that it was an unnecessary war, but only he holds the key to getting “America out of the mess.” “We need to turn it back to the Iraqi people as rapidly as possible.” Boy, General, that sounds like a sophisticated plan. I wonder why President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld haven’t thought of that. But I’m sure your charge “that it was an unnecessary war” will do wonders for troop morale.

And speaking of “high moral purpose” and “troop morale,” maybe these high-minded Democratic stalwarts can collaborate with the Hollywood activists who held a “Hate Bush” gathering this week. General Clark should be especially welcome by them, based on reports that he’s recently turned to Hollywood for advice and funding.

It’s going to be an interesting campaign year. One can’t help but wonder whether the Democrats will come up with something constructive to run on between now and next November. I wouldn’t bet on it.