Stage of Fools

Last Tuesday’s Democrat debate was billed as Senator Barack Obama’s last chance to knock Senator Hillary Clinton off her perch. In reality, it may have been our country’s last chance to see through the array of ridiculous thinking that dominates the entire group of Democratic candidates.

The candidates’ responses to questions concerning Iran alone demonstrated that none of them has a grasp on the dangers our nation truly faces. Former Senator John Edwards attacked President Bush for wrongly charging Iran as a proliferator of WMD, ignoring Iran’s history in its war with Iraq as well as the well-established record of its nuclear weapons development. Edwards was also troubled by Bush labeling Iran or the Revolutionary Guards as terrorists, despite its State Department designation of the whole regime as a state sponsor of terror since 1979.

Governor Bill “I’ll be nice to Hillary because I want that VP spot” Richardson touted his international diplomatic experience, referring to his hostage negotiation and deals with North Korea. He somehow neglected to point out that his deal with North Korea was the complete failure that brought us North Korean nuclear weapons. He is good at getting papers signed irrespective of whether the other party lives up to them.

Then we had Dennis Kucinich who advocates a strategy of “urging.” He wants to sit at (or perhaps stand on) the table (cleared of any military option) and “urge” Iran to give up nuclear power. He did not elaborate as to whether “urging” included begging, whining, or otherwise debasing America but he did recommend that we strengthen our chance of successful “urging” by ridding ourselves first of our nuclear weapons. Kucinich also spoke for the group which takes the position that Bush is ratcheting up the rhetoric toward war, as if America is responsible for Iran’s nuclear endeavors.

Obama was able to chime in with his “we need to talk” rap. He is very good at talking, to Oprah for instance, or between dances with Ellen DeGeneres. Yet, his policy is founded on the notion that “we need to send the right messages” and “they haven’t even tried.” It is flatly wrong that we have not talked with the Iranians. The Europeans have been talking with Iran for over four years and we have recently been in active direct discussions. In none of these discussions has there been any hint of flexibility or compromise on the Iranian side. But this cadre of Democratic candidates does not listen to the clear messages coming from Iran — that it intends to wipe Israel off the map and to bring America to her knees — so how can they be expected to notice the messages we have been sending to Iran and the lack of response?

More devious here is the buried notion that our messages are what is ultimately driving Iran’s behavior. This childish fantasy, shared by all on that stage, demonstrates the arrogance of this mindset, as it assumes that Iran is incapable of accurately assessing our intentions and needs our assistance to do so. We frequently hear notions such as “Iran needs to understand…” and “We need to explain to Russia…” as if they are incapable of basic human understandings.

The converse is painfully true. This group, despite all evidence to the contrary, has been unwilling to accept the clear messages Iran has sent our way that it intends to acquire nuclear weapons, will not negotiate that away, and will use them when ready. Do these diplomatic geniuses think that some Iranian is sitting in the Majlis asking whether perhaps Iran might need to send us clearer messages to correctly convey how peaceful their intentions are? Is the Iranian Obama suggesting they cease doing the kinds of things that are only done by those who actually do want nuclear weapons? Those signals are not getting through, Barack.

Senator Joe Biden attacked Rudy’s competence by joking his sentences contain a noun, a verb and “9/11.” Biden’s grammar skills have improved since his bout with plagiarism but his diplomatic ones have not. Apparently begging Hillary for the Secretary of State job, he tried to demonstrate his grasp of the details by suggesting Afghanistan and Pakistan will go awry if we bomb Iran. Moreso, he attempted to clarify his plan for dividing Iraq (also plagiarized, this time from Ayatollah Khomeini who intended to split the country if he defeated Iraq in the 1980s). Such thinking does not qualify him as an expert on Middle Eastern affairs.

Then it was time for the grande dame of floating positions. On Iran, Hillary’s repeated statement that she wanted to prevent a “rush to war” went unchallenged by the questioners and other candidates. We have been at war with Iran since 1979, and the messages Iran so clearly sends us indicate war. Rather, postponing serious action on Iran until the nomination is secured is what serves best her political goals.

Hillary wishes to sell the notion that our complex problems require her (and her husband’s) brilliance and imagination. A frequent maneuver she uses involves moving between conceptual levels- avoiding answering a question at one level by jumping to another level. At the level of implementation and strategy, complexity has its place. At the level of principle, however, simplicity rules. When being questioned on exactly how she views the Iranian regime, its intentions and whether we are already at war with it (questions of guiding principle), she immediately jumps to the complexities involved with a “rush to war” at the strategy level. Consequently, she never reveals which, if any, principles guide her.

This same obfuscation occurred when Senator Chris Dodd challenged Clinton’s support for Governor Eliot Spitzer’s program for distributing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. When Dodd confronted her on principle — that a license is a privilege that should not be extended to illegals — she reversed her previous statement and attempted to hide behind the complexities of the problem. Dodd understandably shook his head in bewilderment, repeating the simple principle that a license is a privilege. Her tactic — and its hollowness — was on display as it rarely has been.

This group, mostly legislators, is attempting to convince us that they are uniquely qualified to handle the complex and sensitive business of international diplomacy in time of war. Yet it is precisely this group as majority in Congress that has been helpless to negotiate any real compromises with the Republican minority on every major issue. Biden and Dodd, experienced filibusterers, ought to know first hand that it is impossible to negotiate with those who refuse to compromise. They had unqualifiedly refused to compromise on judicial and other appointments when they were in the minority. Not even tough “urging” from Kucinich could change that. And if these legislators can not find diplomatic solutions with the Republican minority, they will fail miserably when dealing with an Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Khameini.