It has been over 45 years since John F. Kennedy campaigned against Richard Nixon, an inveterate anticommunist with impressive foreign-policy credentials, on the “missile gap.”
Contending that the Eisenhower administration had left America vulnerable to Soviet military expansion and that new leadership was needed to set a course for the future, John Kennedy—a thinly experienced and boyish figure—defeated the sitting Vice President.
It has taken over four decades, but the time may once again have come for the Democratic Party to run on defense and foreign policy. They have good reason to do so.
With only a quarter of Americans approving of President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War and a healthy majority (56 to 37 percent) favoring the Democratic troop-deadline approach over Mr. Bush’s open-ended commitment in the latest NBC poll, Democrats have a receptive audience.
Democratic Presidential candidates now routinely make the argument that Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy has diverted us from needed security tasks and weakened America’s international standing.
Last week, Senator Hillary Clinton said: “The plain truth is that this administration has done too little to protect our ports, make our mass transit safer and protect our cities. They have isolated us in the world and have let Al Qaeda regroup.” Senator Barack Obama frequently criticizes the Bush administration for skimping on the military and says he supports expansion of the armed forces. And at the Democratic candidate debate last week, the top-tier contenders vied to show who could be the most aggressive in laying out a response to a hypothetical nuclear attack. All that’s missing is a catchy phrase like “security gap” to encapsulate the Democrats’ argument.
Republicans, beset by the overwhelming public opposition to the Iraq War—not to mention Russia’s descent into fascism and the threat of unchecked North Korean and Iranian nuclearization—find themselves at a loss to identify any significant foreign-policy success. The President was actually reduced to turning to Bill Clinton’s U.N. ambassador (and current Presidential candidate) Bill Richardson earlier this month to meet with North Korea and seek the return of U.S. servicemen’s remains.