Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Torricelli Flame-Out Casts Light on Daschle-Gore Crack Up

Senator Torricelli just doesn't get it. In fact, at least with respect to understanding his own ethics problems he appears to have lost it.

Curiously, the good Senator appears to retain his ability to recognize acts of political suicide by other Democrats:

Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, who was trailing his Republican opponent badly in the polls, called Mr. Gore's speech "not relevant."

"I don't think it has any effect on Democrats' thinking at all," Mr. Torricelli said.

[Croooow Blog wonderfully demonstrates what an intellectual and political mess Mr. Gore has become.]

The symptoms of partial disassociation Senator Torricelli is manifesting seems to be shared by Senator Daschle, who is quoted in the same linked article as saying:

"A lot of people in this country have many of the same concerns that ... vice president [Gore] spoke about. But I think at the end of the day, there's an interest on the part of most Democratic senators to express support for the effort [in Iraq] and to give the president the benefit of the doubt. ...I must say, I was very chagrined that the vice president would go to a congressional district yesterday and make the assertion that they ought to vote for this particular Republican candidate because he was a war supporter, that he was bringing more support to the president than his opponent."

The Senator Majority Leader has now further expanded on his sentiments:

"So, Mr. President, it's not too late it end this politicization. It's not too late to forget the pollsters, forget the campaign fund-raisers, forget making accusations about how [un]interested in national security Democrats are ..."

Since the senior New Jersey Senator is exhibiting so much lucidity in the area of the Iraq war, perhaps someone might want to ask him how he thinks Senator Daschle is going to make his "Stop politicizing the War!" charge stick while the nation is receiving embarrassing transmissions from the Goreocosm [ click for a detailed rebuttal to the Goreocosm transmission] such as:

"In the immediate aftermath of September 11th," Mr. Gore said, "we had an enormous reservoir of good will and sympathy and shared resolve all over the world. That has been squandered in a year's time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world, not primarily about what the terrorist networks are going to do, but about what we're going to do."

With Mr. Gore intoning such things - and Senator Daschle treating them seriously and suggesting the rather obvious fact that a lot of other Democrats in Congress agree with Mr. Gore - how can Senator Daschle argue that a candidate's position on Iraq is not an important election issue?* Is it Senator Daschle's view that voters shouldn't be thinking about and voting about whether the country should go to war? Senator Daschle thinks that a candidate's telling the voters where the candidate (and an opponent) stands on the war issue is prohibited "politicization." Are the voters just supposed to find out the details of their representative's positions on waging war as a surprise after the election - like someone popping out of a cake at a wild party? If it were the case that Democrats support the war just as much as Republicans then Senator Daschle would likely be in the right - but that is not what he's saying. And it just isn't true. Of course, some Democrats think the President is right and clearly split with Mr. Gore. But astute observors think the bulk of Congressional Democrats agree with the bulk of Mr. Gore's complaints, for example. There are even hints of an "80/80 Rule": 80% of Congressional Democrats may support 80% of Mr. Gore's complaints. But it appears Senator Daschle urgently wants to hide that fact and its consequences from the voters. [ * Mr. Daschle was reminded that the particular Presidential quote to which he was objecting actually pertained to the Homeland Security Bill, not Iraq. Details, details - the Senate Majority Leader responded that he wasn't being that limited or picky in the basis for his assault on the President.]

Is that what Democracy means? What happened to all those Democrats calling for a "national debate" on war with Iraq? And what was the point of the "national debate" the Democrats have been demanding (even as they refused until recently to participate in such a debate) be if not to affect the composition of the decision-making bodies involved in determining whether and how such a war should be waged? If a particular Democratic candidate objects to being characterized as unsupportative of an Iraq war, then the candidate can just say to the media: "I support the President's position as much or more than my Republican opponent!" Of course, if that's not true, the Democrat has to choose between uttering a public lie and accepting accurate criticism. That's good.

Domestic issues are going to be a major feature of this election, as Mr. Gore is correct to point out and exploit. But efforts to take the war out of the campaign are at least as foolish as any delusion that domestic issues can be completely swamped by war issues. It all properly goes into the hopper, although some polling results suggest that most voters deem terrorism and national security to be more important issues than the economy:

Despite the stock market drops and a lackluster economy, the public sees terrorism as having a higher priority for the nation right now over the economy and jobs. By 55% to 33%, Americans say terrorism and national security, instead of the economy, should be the nation's higher priority.

So why the heck does Senator Daschle think that the set of issues deemed by the electorate to be the most important facing the country be excluded from the campaign debate? The calculated efforts of Congressional Democrats to suppress the war debate even while demanding that the debate must occur before military action is taken is having some strange results: 44% of polled voters (and a majority of Democrats) say members of Congress have not asked enough questions about President Bush's policy on Iraq, while one in five say they have asked too many questions. And to educate and satisfy the voters, there is no one better for a member of Congress to ask questions of than another, competing candidate for Congress.

The Man Without Qualities does not generally view Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal) as a constructive person. However, she certainly got it right in her NPR discussion:

"[W]e have all said to the president in order to build consensus in our country for a course of action, the American people have to know at what cost; at what cost in terms of human lives of our young people; at what cost in terms of dollars, especially if we go it alone--it could cost tens of billions of dollars; at what cost in the war against terrorism; and at what cost in terms of the length of an occupation of Iraq that may be necessary if, indeed, Saddam Hussein is toppled."

Ms. Pelosi is not just advocating a number-crunching exercise. She is correctly urging a political process to determine whether the voters and their representatives are in allignment in their considerations as to whether the costs of a war are acceptable. And an essential part of making sure that the voters' views are alligned with those of their representatives as to what constitutes an acceptable cost is to determine during the campaign whether a particular candidate in fact accepts the costs and supports war with Iraq. That's not "politicization" - that's democratic, representative self-government.

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