Not more than 48 hours after the Democratic disaster, the first e-mail money pitch arrived. John Kerry, recovered from his grieving, wrote that “I understand the strength, commitment, and passion that are at the core of what we built together-and I am determined to make our collective energy and organization a force to be reckoned with in the weeks and months ahead. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get back to work for our country.”
While we were responding to the Massachusetts Senator’s request by exposing our forearms to the elements, Mr. Kerry was in Little Rock, at the dedication of Bill Clinton’s $168 million library- cum-theme-park, which future visitors may deem the hillbilly version of a pharaoh’s pyramid. Some day, Hillary will bury him in the basement with, in the ancient Egyptian way, his lady friends, retainers and enablers.
While the rain fell on the dedication of Bill’s mausoleum, Democratic pols and their think-tankers were organizing “What do we believe in?” conclaves. The professionals are debating what their political party stands for, what programs and policies it advocates and, evidently also, what church it belongs to. Haunted by figures which indicated that 90 percent of those who go to a house of worship every week voted for George W. Bush, the pros decided they want some of those votes.
However, God is a registered Republican, which only leaves the Devil for the Democrats if they insist on messing with religion. If it turns out that Hillary and the other professional politicians decide that it is time for the party of Jefferson to accept Jesus as its personal savior, they are going to watch a lot of the nonprofessionals who did most of the leg work drift off elsewhere. Better a Green than a born-again political Jesus freak.
Before the pros send out more of their mendicant e-mails, they might spell out for us what it is that they’re asking people to back up with their dollars and their time. They might start with what the pros messed up the worst in the last campaign-foreign policy.
Tell us: What is the foreign policy of the Democratic Party? Is it the total warhawk position of U.S. Representative Jane Harmon of California and both Senators from New York? Is it the modified warhawk, as expressed by Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader? Is it the muddy warhawk, as dimly explicated by the Massachusetts Senator? How do these statespersons arrive at their policy positions? By auction to the ethno-religious group which kicks in the most money?
Tens of thousands broke their butts in the last election without knowing the party’s foreign-policy stand because of their fear of Mr. Bush. That’s over. He got in and he’s going to do what he does, which leaves the nonprofessional volunteers to decide if they will still give of themselves to a party without a foreign policy, or perhaps one with which they strongly disagree.
If the Democratic Party is going to embrace religion to get the Jesus vote, it is going to lose such a large chunk of its base-its active base, its money-giving base, its door-knocking base-that it is not going to win more elections in the future than it has in the recent past. The party’s pros are going to learn that it is one thing to swallow Jesus at the communion rail, and quite another to do the same at the ballot box. Nor is quavering for the Lord a substitute for a foreign-policy position.
For starters on that subject, there is Iran and its putative atom bomb(s). Christians and Jews United for War are laying down the same barrage about these weapons as we got hit with in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. This time, it will be surprising if our contemplated enemies are not working on a bomb and perfecting a means of dropping it on the heads of Iran’s foes. The Iranians seem to have the skill sets, and they certainly have motive to force their way into the nuclear club as fast as they can. They can see that if a country doesn’t have the bomb, it may get the Iraq treatment; if it does have one, it gets the North Korea treatment.
Iran is a member of President Bush’s “axis of evil” because Iranians, in common with many Muslims-not the good, tame Muslims, but the bad Muslims-are freedom-haters. The Iranians, in turn, may have their own axis of evil-which, one supposes, would consist of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. To a freedom-hating Iranian, it might look as though his country were encircled by hostile forces with atomic weapons, namely the United States in Iraq; Pakistan, the American ally; and, of course, the dreaded and hated Israelis, who also have atom bombs.
So those who are saying, “Watch out for Iran-it’s building nuclear weapons!” stand a good chance of being right. Faced with this probability, Israel’s Jehovah and the Republican Party’s Jesus have let it be known via fortune cookies (or however the divinities communicate truth to right-wing politicians that it’s time to give war a chance). In this situation, the Democrats have a dilemma: Either they run their own fiber-optic cable to the man upstairs or they hammer out a policy of their own, ungodly though it may be.
Talk of attacking Iran is everywhere. The Atlantic Monthly recently wargamed the idea. The magazine concluded that we would serve ourselves best by waiting on that particular project, lest the Iranians reciprocate in a number of unpleasant ways, on our people in Iraq and on Israel, via long-range missiles with non-nuclear (but nevertheless unwelcome) warheads. Hence the first question: Are the Democrats in favor of war, or are they not? No mumbling, please.
Do the Democrats have the stuffing to propose a different approach to Iran? What about no atomic weapons for Iran and none for Pakistan or Israel, and everybody submits to a full inspection regimen? The Iranians are not going to be interested in such an idea unless they have guarantees that the United States can curb its messianic urges to impose its Southern Baptist idea of democracy on them. Nor need we do so if the neocons are correct in their assessment of Iran: They tell us that place is boiling with youths spoiling to kick out the theocrats and take up majority rule. The Atlantic offers as evidence of the disposition of Young Iran to democratic ways the public presence of whores in Tehran, in defiance of the reigning mullahs’ strictures against emulating the sex trade so prevalent in America. What better indication that the people are prepping to emulate us than prostitutes running shamelessly about in the streets of their national capital? If the Iranians are on the slippery slope toward majoritarian self-rule, all the more reason to advocate a nuclear-free Middle East.
Then there is Israel. Can the Democratic Party contemplate a policy which is not written in Tel Aviv? With the death of Yasir Arafat, we have come to some kind of a juncture. Does the United States go along with the Israelis’ intention to back the clump of 70-year-old men that Arafat left behind as they go through the motions of one of those democratic elections which isn’t democratic, then announce that these old guys have legitimacy and make them sign a deal that will be repudiated by time and the Palestinians?
By newspaper accounts, the most popular Palestinian politician is not a member of the geezer-ocracy but Marwan Barghouti, a 42-year-old dynamo residing in one of the places Israel keeps for misbehaving Arabs. A Democratic foreign policy might have as one of its planks a demand that Mr. Barghouti be released from jail so he can run for office. If elected, the Israelis will not find him easy to negotiate with, but better a politician who has a popular mandate than a couple of old guys who will sign any piece of paper the Israelis stick in front of them but will not be able to deliver their people.
A Democratic foreign policy might include a sincere and warm rapprochement with Europe, if only to redo a United Nations which-and the Republicans are right about this-badly needs a makeover. This will not come to pass if the E.U. is treated as a rival, except when it is being importuned for money and cannon fodder to rescue the United States from an ill-conceived military adventure.
Another point in a Democratic foreign-policy program might be a renunciation of crusaderism. Faith-based politicians responding to orders from Jesus are prone to e-mails from Heaven ordering up the military to read Bible-based law to heathens in far-off, formerly romantic places.
These foreign-policy suggestions may be unworkable or undesirable. They do have one thing to recommend them, however: They are not Republican in spirit or intent, and they do stand a chance of animating volunteers who are not up for another blast of blather from party headquarters.