Appeasement stance won't help Dean in '04

December 18, 2003|By Douglas MacKinnon

WASHINGTON - Saddam Hussein has been captured, and the prospects for greater peace and stability in Iraq look at least marginally better. With this genocidal monster now in custody, will those who opposed the war with Iraq now have a change of heart?

Some may, but at least one most assuredly won't. Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is a "one-trick pony" who has predicated much of his campaign strategy on vilifying President Bush for going to war with Iraq. His success has come because of his strong opposition to the war. Even with Mr. Hussein now behind bars awaiting trial, Dr. Dean cannot afford to abandon a strategy that has propelled him to the top of the Democratic polls.

Liberty and freedom are now at stake in Iraq, but even the tremendous success of the capture of Mr. Hussein will do little to stem the tide of partisan Democratic attacks.

Ironically, at least momentarily, the Democrats' attacks are being redirected from Mr. Bush toward one of their own - Dr. Dean.

With Al Gore's strong and stunning endorsement of the former Vermont governor, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri fear Dr. Dean is on the verge or running away with the nomination. Needing any port in a storm, these three Democrats are using the capture of Mr. Hussein to try to paint Dr. Dean as wrong on Iraq and weak on defense.

While initially they may have some success, they will fail in the long run because their own positions have been confusing and pandering, and Dr. Dean knows Democratic primary voters still oppose the war, even with Mr. Hussein captured.

With that in mind, Dr. Dean has but one choice - to continue to go negative on the war and Mr. Bush. Sadly, one shameless way he will do this is to make the tragic deaths of American troops the centerpiece of his campaign.

Since the day Mr. Bush declared the end of major combat operations, Dr. Dean and some in the media have kept up a constant drumbeat of stories highlighting American soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq.

Clearly, the death of even one American soldier is tragic. The pain of loss for the family is unbearable and unimaginable. However, with any war, and especially the war in Iraq, comes slanted media coverage and the inexcusable politicizing of death.

Politics is politics, and the Democratic candidates, most especially Dr. Dean, will oppose anything favored by the administration - even if that means authoring platforms of appeasement and weakness that will only embolden those who mean our nation harm. Remember, if Dr. Dean had his way, Mr. Hussein would not be in custody but still running Iraq. He would prefer to bury our nation's head in the sand and pretend there is no evil in the world and that it is not headed, again, toward our shores.

We are losing an average of six U.S. soldiers a week in Iraq since the end of major combat operations May 1 - all tragedies. At the height of World War II, our nation was losing about 300 soldiers a day, with another 460 a day wounded. The United States lost more than 400,000 in World War II fighting against genocide, imperialism and the Saddam Hussein of the 1940s.

If the 24-hour news cycle existed then, Dr. Dean and the liberal element of the media would have tried to break the morale of the American people within weeks of our involvement in World War II. They would have reported that in one week, the United States lost more than 2,000 soldiers, with another 7,000 wounded - sometimes with both of those numbers coming in a single day.

They would have shown hundreds of body bags, interviewed thousands of grieving parents and asked why we were meddling in the affairs of others. They would have done all these things, and they would have been wrong.

President Bush has stressed that we can fight these battles over there or deal with more terrorism and destruction here in the United States. Fighting terrorism, genocide and inhumanity to millions and preserving our own freedom elicits a price. Many times, a very heavy price for some American families. Mr. Bush is convinced that the vast majority of Americans are willing to pay that price to protect our freedom and to ensure the futures of their children and grandchildren.

With the capture of Mr. Hussein, Mr. Bush warned that we can still expect violence and loss of life in Iraq. Dr. Dean will try to use that loss of life as a rationale to elect him president in November.

He will try and he will fail. The majority of Americans will choose national security over appeasement.

Douglas MacKinnon was press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole and was a White House and Pentagon official.

Columnist Clarence Page is on vacation.

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