Dems’ marching orders

Successful politicians rarely put themselves in a position where events almost completely beyond their control can make or break them, but that’s exactly what both President Bush and congressional Democratic leaders have done.

Democrats seemed on the verge of winning that bet until the troop “surge” and strategy implemented this year by Gen. David Petraeus began to look like it might be possible to “turn things around on the ground” in Iraq. The president is far from being able to say we’ve “won” the war in Iraq, and hasn’t even been able to convincingly articulate what “winning” might be in the context of that troubled nation, but virtually everyone finally acknowledges that things there are improving.

Everyone, that is, except those relatively few but influential Democrats who hope yet to profit politically from a U.S. defeat there. In fact, they and their non-elected allies on the outside aren’t even able to acknowledge any progress at all in Iraq because they have so much riding on a disaster there.

What’s more, the president seems finally to have been able to get Americans fearful of a defeat in Iraq to give some credence to his argument that Iraq isn’t really about Iraq, but about our own national security.

One suspects that most Democrats are a little nervous about the ground their leaders have staked out both because they know how dangerous the bet they are making can be and because the vast majority of them are as patriotic as their constituents and would like us to win rather than lose in Iraq. With only a few exceptions, however, they’ve been pretty quiet, but that may be changing.

 Banking on a U.S. defeat in Iraq was always a dangerous strategy because even those Americans who question the wisdom of making our stand there or don’t much like the way the Bush administration has managed the war don’t relish the specter of fleeing from our enemies with our tail between our legs.

To avoid looking like they were longing for just this to happen simply because they want to pin an unpopular war on their political opponents, Democratic leaders have tried to stress that while they’d love to see a U.S. victory in Iraq, the war there is simply “unwinnable” and that we must therefore cut our losses.

Indeed, if one traces the debate back a few months, congressional Democrats were stressing their belief in and support of our troops on the ground in Iraq, but arguing that valiant though they may be, they are being sacrificed in an unnecessary conflict by President Bush and his incompetent, blood-thirsty cronies. The refrain then was that “we support the troops, but not the war.”

That gave them some cover then, but now they’re turning on those very troops and the generals who lead them and the cover is falling away. The generals who are reporting progress are not just wrong, but are being dismissed by supposedly responsible elected officials as liars or worse. Thus, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Democratic Party’s senatorial attack dog, began last week suggesting that Petraeus is “manipulating the statistics” from Iraq to give the illusion of progress where there is none. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) followed up by charging that Petraeus has a history of making “statements … that have not proved to be factual.”

I have never met Gen. Petraeus, but find it difficult to believe that a military leader of his experience and reputation for integrity would risk his career by fabricating numbers, write a false report about what’s happening in Iraq and then fly home to lie to Congress and the American people. Sounds hard to believe, I know, but that is exactly what Reid and Durbin are alleging he’s doing.

And their outside allies are going even further by essentially calling the general a “traitor.” MoveOn.org is today running ads headlined “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” It’s no wonder that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and others who claim their leaders are coordinating the attacks on Petraeus with the folks at MoveOn want them to denounce all of this.

They won’t, though, because for many the defeat of the U.S. in Iraq looms as a political necessity. It’s really up to responsible members of both parties to denounce leaders who are in bed with the MoveOn crowd and look to the fever swamps they inhabit for their marching orders.

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