Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard says that the right to dissent applies only to the pure of heart – Republicans circa 1994.
On the eve of the election in Iraq, Democratic senator Edward Kennedy called President Bush’s Iraq policy “a catastrophic failure.” He demanded that American troops immediately begin to withdraw. “We have no choice,” he declared, “but to make the best we can of the disaster we have created in Iraq.” Kennedy said the retreat of American forces should be completed “as early as possible in 2006,” and suggested that, in Iraq, American troops are a bigger problem than terrorists.
Though appalling, Kennedy’s statement was not out of character for Democrats these days. “I don’t like to impugn anyone’s integrity,” said Democratic senator Mark Dayton, before impugning the integrity of Condoleezza Rice. “But I really don’t like being lied to, repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally. It is wrong, it is undemocratic, it is un-American, and it is dangerous.” After Rice took exception to being called untruthful by Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, Boxer complained on TV: “She turned and attacked me.”
This is madness, but there is method in it. The talk among congressional Democrats is about the tactics Newt Gingrich used as House minority whip in 1993 and 1994. As they remember it, Gingrich opposed, blocked, attacked, zinged, or at least criticized everything President Clinton and Democratic leaders proposed. It was a scorched-earth approach, Democrats believe. And it worked, crippling Clinton and resulting in the 1994 election that gave Republicans control–lasting control, it turned out–of the House and Senate. Now Democrats, after losing three straight elections, hope brutal tactics will work for them.
The media tolerate or even encourage Democratic rage. But the White House can’t afford to. Senate Democrats have enough votes to block major Bush initiatives like Social Security reform and to reject Bush appointees, including Supreme Court nominees. They may be suicidal, but they could undermine the president’s entire second term agenda. At his news conference last week, Bush reacted calmly to their vitriolic attacks, suggesting only a few Democrats are involved. Stronger countermeasures will be needed, including an unequivocal White House response to obstructionism, curbs on filibusters, and a clear delineation of what’s permissible and what’s out of bounds in dissent on Iraq. Too much is at stake to wait for another Democratic defeat in 2006. [Emphasis added.]
So, Fred, it’s okay to do everything possible to subvert a president’s agenda as long as it’s Bill Clinton. But if the Democrats try it on Bush, they’re traitors and their dissent cannot be tolerated. Kevin Drum does a very nice take-down on Mr. Barnes in the Washington Monthly and Washington Post. However, I prefer what young Alvy Singer said in Annie Hall: “What an asshole.”