Friday, August 11, 2006

Anti-War Success Is Not Failure

Thank goodness Charles Krauthammer is willing to share his wisdom with the Democrats, particularly to show those from Connecticut the error of their way. In Friday’s commentary he wrote that voters who tried to apply the lessons of the Vietnam War to the military orgy in Iraq and Afghanistan were dooming the Democratic party to another forty years in the political wilderness, not laying the groundwork for long term success.

Krauthammer suggests that it was the anti-war left wing of the Democratic party that ruined the Johnson presidency, spoiled the presidential chances of Humphrey, and put the party far outside the mainstream on foreign policy, ultimately preventing any national success (except the “idiosyncratic post-Watergate” accidental election of Jimmy Carter) until the Cold War had been won.

First, the Johnson presidency. The anti-war wing of the Democratic party did not make Johnson continue waging war. Perhaps if LBJ had succumbed more quickly to the anti-war members of his own party he would have been reelected, leaving behind a far different legacy. Johnson, like no president since, expressed a desire that the government actively better the lives of its citizens, especially those who had been least touched by the benefits of a Great Society. Johnson’s personal tragedy, his inability to get out of Vietnam, ruined his presidency, not the heart felt beliefs of many sincere Democrats that war in general must be avoided and the one in Vietnam must be ended.

Hubert Humphrey’s candidacy faced two major problems which when combined resulted in Nixon’s incredibly narrow victory. His first problem, of his own making, was his failure to say, “The war policy is Lyndon’s, not mine.” This cost him support from many people who liked his plans for America, but could see nothing but disaster in the war. Nixon’s “secret plan to end the war” was Humphrey’s other problem. If Nixon had a plan, it certainly was a secret – so secret that he couldn’t locate it after the election. If Nixon’s so-called plan to end the war wasn’t pandering to the anti-war sentiments of middle-America, I don’t know what it could be. Mr. Krauthammer seems to have forgotten that it was Nixon’s Republicans that benefited from its own anti-war electioneering – as unscrupulous as it was.

Unscrupulous? Perhaps I should have saved that word for the next Nixon campaign. The 1972 campaign proved to be, based on the indictments, resignations, and pardons that ensued, the most crooked of the modern era – up to that point. Nixonian tampering with the campaigns of the Democrats during the primary phase and then in the election itself leave wide open the question of who would have been inaugurated in 1973 had the election been honestly pursued. Krauthammer writes of a “newly reshaped McGovernite party” unable to deal with the post-Vietnam Cold War. Well, isn’t that something? The war Nixon had said he had a plan to end still had two and a half tragic years to go, strong Democratic candidates had been sabotaged, and Krauthammer puts the blame on anti-war Democrats.

The problem with Democrats lay not with an anti-war conscience, but with a Republican party led by a man without a conscience.

That seems familiar.

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