From Josh Trevino, “The Sunshine Patriots”:
At a moment when the Bush Administration’s failed war leadership is being cast into stark relief, it’s reassuring, on the purely partisan level, to know that we may rely upon the Democrats to aggressively call attention to the dangers of their still-greater incompetence. (On a patriotic level, of course, it’s deeply distressing.) Exhibit A must be Senator John Kerry, who remains in the spotlight by dint of his vain pursuit of a Democratic presidential re-nomination in 2008, oblivious to the stench of failure and incompetence that dogs his every public pronouncement. This morning we see that he has an essay in the Washington Post, unfortunately subtitled “The Case for Flip-Flopping.” In it, he argues for the same course of action in Iraq that he has advocated in every American war since achieving his majority four decades past: running away, with regrets, but with wisdom that will presumably enable the nation to see more clearly when to run next.
The measure of this wisdom is, apparently, the extent to which one “[embraces] the world’s complexity.” In a self-pitying turn of phrase, Kerry describes himself as “someone who learned the hard way how embracing the world’s complexity can be twisted into a crude political shorthand.” This is presumably a reference to the criticism of his long record of willing service as a de facto flack for the preferred policy outcomes of his nation’s enemies. He did it during the Vietnam War, when he went on freelance missions to meet Communist leaders in Paris; he did it during the last phase of the Cold War, when he went on freelance missions to meet Communist leaders in Central America; and he did it in this war, when he went, with fellow Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, to meet the world’s top Ba’athist and a cardinal funder of Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese terror-groups, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. John Kerry may reminisce about listening to Churchill records, in the manner of Ashley Judd reminiscing about listening to Desmond Tutu LPs, but his mode is pure Chamberlain. As the great appeaser pronounced his optimism on cooperation with the great dictators, so does his latter-day American emulator declare that he has “found potential for cooperation with Syria in averting a disaster in Iraq.” The Syrians, for their part, have found potential for cooperation with John Kerry, just as the Vietnamese Communists and the Sandinistas did: as a propaganda tool. The official Syrian Arab News Agency made great hay over the Kerry/Dodd junket, seizing opportunities to cast its dictator in a positive light, and showcase the autocrat’s sweet reasonableness. Meanwhile, the Iraqi news agency al-Rafidayn has concluded that John Kerry, and by extension the American Democrats, support Bashar al-Assad — and by implication, the Iraqi insurgents whom Bashar al-Assad funds and sustains. If John F. Kerry has qualms about the perception of his support for the once and present killers of his countrymen and their comrades in arms, he does not show it. It would be a bit late in his career for that measure of conscience in any case.
It’s easy to beat up on John Kerry — even Democrats are wont to do it, even if he generates the occasional bout of enthusiasm from the netroots cultists — but the problem he embodies is endemic to the Democratic Party at large. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Senator Kerry thinks himself a sincere patriot, and is truly interested in what he perceives as the welfare of the United States. (I don’t believe this was true during Kerry’s Vietnam-era activities, but it is at least arguable now.) This puts him squarely in the position of his party as a whole — and not only in the realm of self-perception. In the realm of practical effect, Kerry has given aid and comfort to his nation’s foes — again, in the spirit of charity, perhaps unintentionally — and so too do we see the Democratic Party doing the same. We know, for example, that al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has pronounced the Democratic victory in the November midterm elections a victory also for “the Mujahideen — the Muslim Ummah’s vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq.” This is partially a function of our enemies’ hatred for a President who has, unlike his predecessors, made actual war upon them; and it must be noted that it is also a function of their assessment of the Democrats.
One might assume that the Democrats would wish to do something about this: for starters, perhaps, by seeking a path toward victory in Iraq rather than moving inexorably toward the spot where John Kerry has been for some time — in the enervating embrace of the defeatist mindset. In swiftly-receding memory, our enemies of the Second World War wrongly assumed that changes in American leadership and partisan fortunes would entail a change in America’s enmity. It would be heartening to see the newly-ascendant Democrats prove our present enemies, as they indulge in the same assumption, equally wrong. But the prospects are small. The incoming Democratic Senate Majority Leader cannot stomach anything other than an eventual retreat, which puts him to the right of several of his Senate colleagues. And the Democratic base, as exemplified in the “netroots,” is adamantly against anything other than defeat: when respected commentator and longtime Europeanist Anne Applebaum suggested that “old Europe” might find it wise to seek solutions in Iraq, the leading lights of the leftosphere went apoplectic. The idea that anyone other than the much-hated Bush Administration might bear responsibility for the situation in that war is abhorrent to them, and they don’t mind shrieking so.
More’s the pity: if there’s any lesson we’ve learned from the past three years of Democratic rebuilding, it’s that as goes the netroots fanatics, so goes the party. And when those fanatics cannot summon the basic patriotism to identify with their own country at war — a path long since blazed by John Kerry — it’s a fool’s errand to expect the same level of Americanism, or decency, from their party.