The 2008 Democratic Party platform calls for ushering in a new era of government intervention in nearly all corners of American life, but its words on national defense read more like a Republican document than leftist manifesto.
The platform’s pro-defense bent at times belies specific statements from Sen. Barrack Obama, the party’s presidential nominee. He has singled out major weapons programs for budget cuts and has pledged to talk to any world leader, including the president of Iran, without preconditions.
The platform’s national security blueprint does contain two overtures to the Left: a pledge to end the ban on gays in the military, and a commitment to take “concrete actions” to create a world without nuclear weapons.
“I think Obama’s perception of the military and what he would do to change it is a disaster,” said Orson Swindle, a confidante of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. Swindle spent some of his six years as a POW in North Vietnam bunking next to McCain.
“We’ve had experiences with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton in slashing defense,” Swindle told HUMAN EVENTS. “Remember Clinton’s peace dividend. We’re paying a big price for that peace dividend. I think Obama shows an incredible naivety about what national security and defense is about, or an intent to weaken this country. I’m not sure which.”
Lawrence Korb, an Obama supporter and analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, said the platform is a “pro-defense document.” He said one major proposal is to reduce troops in Iraq and shift them to Afghanistan, from where al Qaeda planned the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“Where is the real threat from al Qaeda that could attack us and our allies around the world?” Korb said. “Obviously it is in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border. You are not going to be able to get Afghanistan under control unless you put more American troops in there and you can’t put more American troops in there while you are still heavily involved in Iraq.”
He added, “Democrats have a good record on defense, but they have not been able to articulate it. They get blamed for a lot of things that are not their fault.”
Previous liberal candidates, such as George McGovern in 1972, Carter in 1976, and the post-Cold War Bill Clinton, ran on a platform that advocated cuts in U.S. armed forces, from Army divisions to Air Forge fighter wings.
But the 90-plus page 2008 platform, which was presented to delegates Monday night in Denver, does not mention any budget cuts. Instead, it talks about the need to defeat al Qaeda, to increase active duty troops strength, and to stop Iran from building nuclear warheads
“A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace,” the Democrats say in a Reaganesque tribute to what polls show is America’s most popular institution.
The platform also endorses the concept of preemptive military strikes, one of the main strategies in President Bush’s war on global terrorists.
“We believe we must also be willing to consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense,” the Democrats now say.
For a party that courts the homosexual rights movement, and its campaign cash, the platform is striking for what it leaves out. Neither the words “gay,” “lesbian” nor “homosexual,” appear.
The main nod to gays is the platform’s commitment to end the military’s long-standing ban on avowed homosexuals in the ranks. Pro-military groups say the ban — contained in a policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” — is working to ensure unit cohesion. If it is removed, they say, some conservative Christian young people, on whom the Pentagon relies as recruits, will shun military service.
Obama backer Korb told HUMAN EVENTS that the Army has had to lower some standards to meet recruiting goals. “By dropping the ban on gays you would not have to lower you standards as much and get more qualified people,” he said.
The platform does not always mesh with the candidate himself. While the paper sounds pro-defense, Obama has stated he plans to make “deep cuts” in America’s nuclear arsenal and will “slow” development of the Army’s future battlefield array of armored vehicles, helicopters and spy planes.
Obama also has all but committed himself to reversing Bush’s decision to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system to stop a limited attack by a rogue nation. The president has authorized an existing battery in Alaska to protect the U.S. from an attack by North Korea. In the works is a system based in Poland to counter an Iranian attack.
But Obama said in a major defense policy speech that he “will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems.”
Its military aspects aside, the 2008 platform is a grassroots liberal document : a call for deep federal government involvement in education, health care, pensions, the work place and in managing the Earth’s climate.
It groups abortion under the heading of “reproductive health care.” “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay,” it says.
The word “marriage” only appears once in the platform and not about the institution itself, but in a pledge to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The act was signed into law by President Clinton. The laws states that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage as legal and says states do not have to honor such marriages in other states.
The law passed the House, 342-67, and the Senate, 85-14.
The platform wants the federal government to fund a pension for every American, outside of Social Security, and to provide a $4,000 grant in the form of a tax credit to every college student.