Bearing the threat

It’s getting ugly out there, as more than one member of Congress must have discovered during the recess. In fact, one suspects that more than a few members must be relieved that the recess is over so they can return to the relative safety of life inside the Washington Beltway.

Many of them may still be in denial, but those who aren’t must have gotten an earful from the folks back home. Voters are becoming more and more disgusted with a GOP that seems to have lost its fiscal and moral moorings and a Democratic Congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) that seems as incompetent and irresponsible as its GOP-helmed predecessor. Approval polls never tell the whole story, but they give one a flavor of what’s going on out there. President Bush is mightily unpopular, as is his party, but the current Congress is even less popular than he is.

The Democratic congressional leadership isn’t all that capable of getting what it wants done — and what it wants to do could prove its undoing.

If ever a party were a captive of its own base, it is the party of Pelosi and Reid. The boys and girls at MoveOn.Org and within the fever swamps of the left today control the money and ground troops the Democrats need to win, and they expect their political demands to be met. Their dominance is so great today that even the leaders of organized labor, once an alternate power base within the Democratic Party, are prostrating themselves at their feet.

The first demand of the left is a total surrender in Iraq and acceptance of the view that we, rather than the Islamist radicals who strap explosives to themselves and their children, are the bad guys out there. Presidential hopeful John Edwards has put it most clearly, but other leading Democrats are echoing the line that but for our presence, the Middle East and the world would be a pretty nice place.

It is impossible to say at this point whether the military progress reported in Iraq will hold or whether things will get worse, but Democratic leaders today seem hell-bent on denying even the possibility that things might improve because those on whom they rely for support want us to lose. Thus, military leaders who suggest that things over there aren’t quite as dismal as they hope are dismissed as liars more interested in pleasing the evil president they serve than in telling the truth.

The only thing keeping Congress from forcing a surrender is the fact that the place is, well, dysfunctional and that some Democrats with the best interests of the nation in mind must lay awake at night wondering what might happen if they do what the left is demanding.

The president may wish we never got into the mess in which we find ourselves, but is afraid that a perceived U.S. defeat in Iraq will have real consequences throughout the region and the world. These could include a bloodbath in Iraq itself as those who worked with us are slaughtered by the victors, a renewed campaign to destroy the non-radical rulers that still control much of the region and a real effort to wipe out Israel. The left wouldn’t find all this that upsetting, but most Americans would recoil.

What’s more, if the administration and others are right, the radicals might not stop there. If they can be taken at their word, after all, it is our very existence and not simply our presence in their backyard that they find intolerable.

The situation reminds me of the old Reagan commercial that featured the “bear in the woods” and asked U.S. voters to consider the question of whether those then denying the reality of the Soviet threat and claiming, in essence, that the woods were safe were wrong.

The Soviet bear is gone, but it was real — and millions of Americans fear the world may be as dangerous or even more dangerous today. If the left forces Democrats in Congress to engineer a Western surrender in Iraq and nothing happens, they’ll have been proven right, but if they’re wrong the consequences will be on the heads of those who yielded to the demands from the fever swamps. That has to give level-headed Democrats pause.


Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com .