War on Terror? What War?
The New Republic carries this gem:
"To anyone who cares about the fate of our republic, these are troubling times. Yet seldom has our public discourse seemed so inadequate to the seriousness of the situation. George W. Bush's administration has pushed us into moral and constitutional crisis, but the media remain committed to business as usual--trivializing criticism of the president as partisan bickering, finding expert apologists for power to sanction appalling departures from American tradition. Think-tank intellectuals with impeccable credentials calmly discuss torture as an instrument of national policy. Bush himself, having deceived Americans into supporting his disastrous Iraq adventure, now asserts his authority to ignore legislative constraints of any kind. "Presidential historians" on public television solemnly compare him to Lincoln and other "wartime presidents," overlooking the egregious flaw in this analogy: we are not in a state of war. Instead we are in a state of permanent emergency, a murky atmosphere of genuine danger and popular anxiety that can be deployed to justify just about any expansion of executive power. " [Boldface added].
So: "we are not in a state of war." Thousands of Americans are fighting in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands are fighting in Iraq, but: "we are not in a state of war."
If liberals want to know why they lost in 2002 and 2004 elections that were very winnable, they might start with statements like this.
It's worth noting as well that this was published in The New Republic, the one liberal journal that has consistently argued the necessity of fighting the war on terror. In December 2004, TNR published Peter Beinart's "A Fighting Faith", a ringing call for liberals to defend America as they had during the Cold War.
The overwhelming response from his fellow liberals was: nothing doing. Or as Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly put it: "If he thinks too many liberals are squishy on terrorism, he needs to persuade us not just that Islamic totalitarianism is bad — of course it's bad — but that it's also an overwhelming danger to the security of the United States." If after September 11th, even relatively moderate liberals like Kevin Drum still need to persuaded that Islamic terrorism is an "overwhelming danger" to the US, it explains very clearly why Democrats can't win elections.
No wonder Kerry lost. CNN's exit polls showed that the American people trusted President Bush to handle terrorism 58 to 40%. By contrast only 40% trusted Kerry to handle terrorism, while 58% did not trust him. But the breakdowns are even more interesting. All of the red states trusted Bush to handle terrorism, none of the red states trusted Kerry to handle terrorism. But what is interesting is that the blue states didn't trust Kerry either: of the states that went blue, only in Massachussetts and Maryland did a plurality of voters trust Kerry to handle terrorism.
Now in 2006 the Democrats have a very winnable election in front of them. Instead of vowing to win the war on terror, they are running to impeach Bush, surrender Iraq to the terrorists, end the Patriot Act, and stop wire-tapping Al Qaeda. If that isn't exactly the way the moderate Democrats see their platform, that is the way it will be seen in Middle America, and that platform seriously undermines their chances of carrying the fall.
If Democrats really want to win in 2006, they might go back and re-read Peter Beinart.