The big difference between our current president and his father is that the first President Bush put off the debate over the Persian Gulf War until after the 1990 midterm elections. The result was one of most substantive and honest foreign policy debates Congress has ever seen, and a unified nation. The first President Bush was scrupulous about keeping petty partisanship out of the discussion.
The current President Bush did the opposite. He pressured Congress for a vote before the 2002 election, and the war resolution passed in October.
Sen. Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat who is no dove, warned of rushing "pell-mell" into an endorsement of broad war powers for the president. The Los Angeles Times reported that Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, protested in September: "We're being asked to go to war, and vote on it in a matter of days. We need an intelligence estimate before we can seriously vote." And Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, put it plainly: "This will be one of the most important decisions Congress makes in a number of years; I do not believe it should be made in the frenzy of an election year." But it was.
Grand talk about liberating Iraq gave way to cheap partisan attacks. In New Mexico, Republican Steve Pearce ran an advertisement against Democrat John Arthur Smith declaring: "While Smith 'reflects' on the situation, the possibility of a mushroom cloud hovering over a U.S. city still remains." Note that Smith wasn't being attacked for opposing the war, only for reflecting on it. God forbid that any Democrat dare even think before going to war.
Marc Racicot, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, said about the late Sen. Paul Wellstone's opposition to the war resolution: "He has set about to diminish the capacity of this nation to defend itself. That is a legitimate issue." Wellstone, who died in a plane crash a few days before the election, was not intimidated. But other Democrats were.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
EJ Dionne reminds us of the history so many are pretending to forget:
by Atrios at 09:35