Democratic Hypocrisy on War and peace.(EDITORIALS)

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In recent weeks, many Democrats have shed any reluctance to sternly criticize President Bush in the conduct of the war on terrorism. At a June 29 fund-raiser in Nashville, Al Gore delivered a speech questioning the success of the war, basing his claim on the fact that "they haven't gotten Osama bin Laden." The day before, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle asserted that U.S. war efforts "have not been as successful as we hoped [they] could be" and blamed the president for the failure to "capture the ringleaders of al Qaeda." Several days earlier, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry asserted on "Meet the Press" that the December operation in Tora Bora was "a failed military operation" and called U.S. military strategy there "an enormous mistake." In an April political speech to Florida Democrats, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards accused the president of committing "an enormous mistake," thus permitting Afghanistan to go "right back to chaos, right back to where it was under the Taliban." It is hardly a coincidence that the rash of wartime critiques has erupted among the president's political opponents who dream of defeating him in the 2004 election.

Fair enough. With American lives and treasure on the line, the nation's elected representatives, who may one day soon have to vote to significantly increase America's commitment of both to the war on terrorism, have a duty to ensure that the campaign is waged as effectively as possible. After all, in the late 1960s, few senators were as passionately opposed to the Vietnam War as Mr. Gore's father. The anti-war positions of Al Gore Sr. legitimately cost him his Senate seat in 1970 in the Volunteer State, so named because of Tennessee's outstanding military tradition. The lesson was not lost on Mr. Gore, who was one of only 10 Democratic senators to vote to authorize the Persian Gulf military campaign against Iraq in 1991.

If post-September 11 U.S. military operations are open to fair-minded scrutiny, then surely the same should apply to the defense-related issues that preceded the terrorist attacks, including, of course, the Democrats' vote on the Gulf War resolution. In the pivotal senatorial campaigns involving Democratic incumbents Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Tom Harkin of Iowa, the outcome of which will likely determine which party controls the Senate, the candidates' positions on defense issues certainly are fair game. (All three voted against the 1991 Gulf War resolution, as did Messrs. Daschle, Kerry, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden Jr. and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.)

Minnesota Republican candidate Norm Coleman has challenged Mr. …