Warring Democrats. (Comment)

Article excerpt

Before nonpresident Al Gore recently weighed in against President Bush's rush to war in Iraq (for posing "the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world"), one of the leading antiwar voices in the Democratic Party was Hank Perritt. Hank Perritt? He's a law school dean running for Congress against a first-term Republican in Illinois. A Washington Post Op-Ed Perritt penned in mid-September, headlined "My Party Must Say No to War," was one of the more prominent Democratic denunciations of the coming war, and it won Perritt appearances in cable news land.

True, a small band of liberal House Democrats have been agitating against the war (more on that below). But almost all the so-called national Democrats (which means the guys pondering a presidential run in 2004, including Senate majority leader Tom Daschle and House minority leader Richard Gephardt) have either been cheerleading the "regime change" war or raising process-oriented questions, as opposed to policy-based objections. Gephardt and Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Edwards are Bush Democrats on the war. And Senators Daschle, Joe Biden and John Kerry are questioners, raising concerns about, say, US unilateralism and the anything-goes language of the resolution Bush sent Congress. Biden's queries suggest he'd like to be persuaded by Bush; Kerry's are more challenging. He's proposed a Congressional measure calling on the United Nations to enforce its resolutions on Iraq, but he hasn't said he'll vote against a war. (Daschle has attacked Bush for politicizing the Iraq debate, but notes that Bush's tactics are unlikely to change his vote on whatever final resolution emerges.) Vermont Governor Howard Dean, a long-odds 2004 Democratic contender, has decried the war, but his statements don't carry any clout.

Several prominent Democratic senators have tried to slow Bush's dash to war. Carl Levin, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, urges unfettered inspections before war. And after Bush presented his resolution, crusty Robert Byrd huffed, "This is the worst of election-year politics. ... The resolution is a direct insult and affront to the powers given on matters of war under the Constitution." But despite reports that Congress members are getting more antiwar than prowar calls and letters from constituents, Democrats in both houses aren't even close to blocking (or wanting to block) Bush's war.

In the House, about twenty Democrats--10 percent of the caucus--have been trying to pull together an opposition. …