Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Liberal Logic-Can you say Oxymoron?

I'm not a movie guy but I did see and enjoy Forrest Gump.

The most memorable part of "Forrest Gump" is a scene set in or around 1968, in which Forrest, who by the way served in Vietnam, has encountered his love interest, Jenny, at an antiwar rally in Washington. Jenny gets into an argument with her hippie boyfriend, who slaps her in the face. Forrest decks the hippie, who later tries to smooth things over with Jenny: "Things got a little out of hand," he tells her. "It's just this war and that lying son of a bitch, Johnson! I would never hurt you. You know that."

This wonderfully encapsulated the worst aspects of baby-boomer liberalism: the narcissism thinly disguised as idealism, the self-pity and flight from accountability, the tendency to lash out at those to whom one owes loyalty.

We were reminded of this by last week's congressional debate on Iraq. Sen. John Kerry*, who voted for the war before turning against it, said last week that he planned to introduce a resolution calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But as the Associated Press reports, when Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky introduced Kerry's resolution pre-emptively, "Kerry called the vote 'fictitious.' "

The resolution failed on a 93-6 procedural vote, though at least Kerry, unlike Rep. John Murtha, had the courage of his convictions, such as they are: Kerry was among the six voting not to "table" the resolution. (The other five were California's Barbara Boxer, Iowa's Tom Harkin, Massachusetts' Ted Kennedy, West Virginia's Robert Byrd and Wisconsin's Russ Feingold. Harkin, like Kerry, was originally a war supporter.)

In a speech last Tuesday, Kerry explained his metamorphosis from warmonger to cut-and-runner: "It is essential to acknowledge that the war itself was a mistake--to say the simple words . . . that contain more truth than pride. We were misled. We were given evidence that was not true." That lying SOB, Johnson!

The House, meanwhile, voted 256-153 in favor of a resolution that, in the AP's description, "praises U.S. troops, labels the Iraq war part of the larger global fight against terrorism and says an 'arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment' of troops is not in the national interest." Forty-two Democrats supported the resolution; only three Republicans opposed it. Murtha, this time, voted "no."

Democrats criticized Senate Republicans for "gamesmanship" (the AP's word) in putting the Kerry proposal up for a vote, while in the House, Democrats "complained that Republicans refused to allow them to present an alternative resolution--though Democrats weren't able to agree on just what to offer."

Murtha, who has emerged as the House leader of the cut-and-run caucus, showed up on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning and claimed there is a historical precedent for what he proposes to do:

When we went to Beirut, I, I said to President Reagan, "Get out." Now, the other day we were doing a debate, and they said, "Well, Beirut was a different situation. We cut and run." We didn't cut and run. President Reagan made the decision to change direction because he knew he couldn't win it. Even in Somalia, President Clinton made the decision, "We have to, we have to change direction. . . ."

Is Murtha really holding up Beirut and Somalia as examples of great leadership? One can argue that these interventions were ill advised in the first place, and that at least from a tactical standpoint it made sense to get out. But strategically, the withdrawals were disastrous, because they reinforced the impression that the U.S. lacks staying power and will withdraw its military in the face of adversity--which is just what Murtha now proposes to do.

Murtha also argued for abandoning Iraq on the ground that Karl Rove could stand to lose a few pounds:

He's, he's in New Hampshire. He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, "Stay the course." That's not a plan. I mean, this guy--I don't know what his military experience is, but that's a political statement. This is a policy difference between me and the White House. I disagree completely with what he's saying.

OK, first of all, criticizing someone's looks is just unkind. Not everyone can be as handsome and fit as John Murtha. But also, was Rove any thinner in 2002, when Murtha voted for the war?

Democratic pols who have their fingers to the wind (as distinct from consistent Iraq opponents like Byrd and Feingold) seem to think that talking about withdrawal from Iraq is a political winner. But as shown by last week's votes, fewer of them are convinced that actually moving toward withdrawal is a political winner.

Most Americans, we'd venture, would like to see an end to the fighting in Iraq; but most, we'd also venture, understand that leaving without winning is a very bad idea. Democrats want Republicans to pay a political price for committing the country to a war that some people now regret supporting--but many of them want to avoid responsibility for both their own past backing of the war and their future plans.

As Kerry said last week, "we cannot have it both ways in the war in Iraq." If only he would follow his own advice.