Magazine article The American Prospect

The Cowed Donkeys. (Devil in the Details)

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Cowed Donkeys. (Devil in the Details)

Article excerpt

THE SILENCE OF THE Democratic lambs continues. Generals not grousing about Don Rumsfeld's high-tech, air-power, special-forces invasion plan, which omitted only infantry and artillery from its order of battle, are being denied entry at officers' clubs. Poppy Bush's retainers are gently suggesting that Junior needs a talk with the old man. Half the public now believes that the war will drag on for a year. And the Democrats aren't saying anything at all.

In fairness, there are a number of reasons, some of them momentarily plausible, why the leaders of America's oldest and largest political party are clamming up. The war is only a few weeks old, and whether it will end in cataclysm or merely disaster (we're factoring in the long-term effect on world opinion here) is still unclear. Tom Daschle got savaged when he said that Bush had mishandled the run-up to the war. Nonpolitical figures are making their case, so why weaken it by giving it a partisan label? The Republicans would kill them if they said anything; look at what happened to Daschle. Public opinion is in flux but Americans still support the war, except about half the Democrats--the half whose support the Democratic candidates can count upon. An opinion this early could look like a prejudgment. And did you see what happened to Daschle?

In fact, the Democrats' silence emerges from a mix of calculation and trepidation that is understandable if not very edifying. Some Democrats, of course, are cheerleaders for the war; Joe Lieberman touts his support not just for the troops but for "our president as commander in chief. …

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