The Cowed Donkeys. (Devil in the Details)

The American Prospect, May 2003 | Go to article overview

The Cowed Donkeys. (Devil in the Details)


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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