The Democrats' choice

A political axiom holds that you can't beat something with nothing. The Democratic Party, however, keeps trying.

In the final days of the 2000 campaign, Democrat operatives and their media accomplices broke the story of George W. Bush's 1976 DUI conviction. What made it a 'story' is not entirely clear. Granting that the barest suspicion of hypocrisy is sufficient to loose the hounds, and any actual evidence can destroy a politician's career, especially a Republican politician's, where was the hypocrisy? Bush had talked openly about his drinking problem and his decision to overcome it, acknowledging that he done certain things he wasn't proud of. Uncovering a scrape with the law that happened after he turned his life around would be the journalistic equivalent of tossing a side of beef into a school of piranhas. But what exactly was the purpose of highlighting an embarrassment that occurred during a stretch of his life that, by his own admission, was pockmarked by episodes of improper behavior? How did it qualify as 'news'?

Over the final weekend of the 2000 campaign, millions of seniors received a telephone message, taped by far—left actor Ed Asner, warning them that a Bush victory would threaten their social security benefits. Four years later, the voice on the message belonged to Hal Linden, but the content was unchanged.

Bush commented that he has been the President for a few years now and nobody missed any checks: the Democrats pull this stuff every election——why should anyone take them seriously? The bogus charge must produce some incremental value, or the people making the ads—and they are savvy pros—— wouldn't waste their time. Still, it's a source of wonderment. No President would dream of touching the benefits of millions of current recipients; no Congress could look at any such legislation without swooning like a Victorian matron encountering a statue of a male nude. And yet, the Democrats repeatedly hurl the same preposterous charge in a transparent attempt to conceal their inability to formulate a substantive policy.
The Social Security system faces insolvency: that much is uncontroversial. Addressing the problem, Republicans have edged, tentatively, toward partial privatization. Democrats remain committed to preventing an honest debate, but beyond the reflexive opposition to the other side's proposals, their intentions are undecipherable.

By nominating John Kerry, Democrats ensured that they would instigate a vigorous debate on the Vietnam War. Here was a man who had thrust himself into the national consciousness by branding his fellow veterans as war criminals. Following his return from active duty, he made unauthorized visits to the North Vietnamese delegations in Paris, and became an articulate advocate for the enemy position (John Edwards was shocked by entries in Kerry's diary that historian Douglas Brinkley kept under wraps until the election was over). These are extraordinary statements about a politician ambitious to become President of the United States. If true—and they are—they portray someone who would surely antagonize a large portion of the voting population, a candidate who would be judged unelectable by any rational vetting process.

In truth, it was hard to see the distinctions between John Kerry and other Democrats. That there were Democrats running to his left is a both a commonplace observation and a truly damning indictment of the whole party. To voters favoring an internationalist, quasi—pacifist approach to foreign affairs and high tax/ big government policies at home, he, the stereotypical Northeastern liberal, suited them perfectly. Those voters who favored a more robust projection of American military power into the regions that have spawned jihadists recoiled at the prospect of a Kerry presidency, but only because he was a generic liberal Democrat.

For one relatively small group of Americans, John Kerry was something special. The men who served alongside him in Vietnam, patrolling the rivers in Swift Boats, took very personally the accusations he made in his 1971 Senate testimony. Banding together as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, they—Kerry's entire chain of command—presented a version of events that differed sharply from the candidate's self—serving account of his own unparalleled heroism, an account that was accepted uncritically by the mainstream media. One of them, John O'Neill, who had debated Kerry on the Dick Cavett Show in the early seventies, co—authored a book, Unfit for Command, which laid out the case in painstaking detail.

The Democratic response to the attacks of the Swiftees was absolutely characteristic. They first attempted to discredit individual members of the group by tying them to Republican cash cows. Next, they pressured radio stations to refuse to grant airtime to anyone deviating from the official Kerry line. They demanded that bookstores refrain from stocking Unfit for Command. Droves of party hacks descended on the talk shows to denounce the decorated vets as 'liars,' employing a fascinating technique: dissenters from received truth had to be lying because the official records supported Kerry's version. The Swiftees contended that Kerry wrote the version that found its way into the official records, so whatever your judgment of the respective sides, the question of origin was central to the dispute. Finally, in the closing weeks of the campaign, Democrat operatives calling themselves Texans for Truth released in the guise of a book, Unfit Commander, a collection of documents relating to George W. Bush's service in the Air National Guard.

In every respect, what was on display was the quintessential Democratic response: a no—holds—barred attack that savaged the opponent on every level. No consideration at all was given to the possibility that the Swift Boat veterans felt any genuine emotions, or were expressing grievances rooted in reality. As always, there were no 'issues,' just an enemy that stood in the path to the White House and needed to be liquidated.

By cobbling together Unfit Commander, the Democrats felt they had achieved symmetry—— you attack the military record of our guy, we'll do the same to yours. One thought completely alien to their mindset, a concept that simply could not be entertained by any of them, was that the Swiftees were real, while Texans for Truth were fakes. Many liberals and leftists hate George Bush for his Christianity; a disturbingly large number hate him because he will routinely opt to protect America in reckless defiance of the wishes of Old Europe. Not a single shrieking Bush—basher actually gives a rat's patoot about the number of flying hours he logged. These are, when it comes down to it, people who—twice—enthusiastically backed a draft dodger against an authentic war hero. They do not care about Bush's performance in the Guard.

Something vs. Nothing: The Democrats have yet to grasp that they have chosen the losing side.