Thursday, September 18, 2003

Bush vs. Bush

I've been giving some thought to my qualms about the "let's nominate a general" strategy for dealing with the perception that Democrats are soft on defense. I stand by my previous concern that this is a band aid approach to a serious problem that can only be solved by correcting the misapprehension that Democrats cannot defend America on the foreign stage.

And let there be no doubts that this is a misapprehension. Democrats have lead this country through some of its toughest times. We faced two world wars with Democrats at the helm (Wilson and Roosevelt). We faced down the threat of communism in Korea under a Democratic President (Truman). We stood toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, lead by a Democratic President who did not blink in the face of the worst danger this country has ever faced. (Not to minimize the concerns about terrorism, but the threat we face today is considerably less than what we faced 40 years ago.)

So Democrats have proven themselves more than capable of being strong leaders.

Now, if Howard Dean were to make this argument, the Republicans would probably reply, with delight, that Dean is no Jack Kennedy.

To which Howard Dean should reply that George W. Bush is no George Herbert Walker Bush.

This is the key: the foreign policy of George W. Bush is not the foreign policy of George Herbert Walker Bush. It is, in fact, a radical departure from the multilateralism that Bush 41 strongly pursued while he was in office. That multilateral policy, a policy that all Presidents since Roosevelt have followed, helped lead us to victory in the greatest conflicts this country has ever been involved in: the Second World War and the Cold War. That multilateral policy was the foundation for the coalition that George Herbert Walker Bush lead to victory in the first Gulf War.

Yet, unlike the second Gulf War that the son has given us, the father's victory was won without leaving a chaotic power vacuum in the Middle East. Unlike the father, the son has created a world that takes a certain delight in our many troubles.

George W. Bush has pursued a radical policy of unilateral pre-emption. He has asserted the supremacy of American will in all matters. As a result he has produced a world far more dangerous than the one he inherited. He has damaged a world that was built, ironically, on the multilateral policies his father helped create.

The Democrats have been looking for a foreign policy to adopt that might counter the belligerent bravado expounded by the Bush team. Perhaps they should take up the mantle of the father's policy? A policy that the son so casually tossed aside.

Let's make the election not one of Bush vs. the Democrats but of Bush vs. Bush.

And then let's see Dubya squirm as he tries to defend himself while not attacking his father.


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