At a Sept. 23 Republican fundraiser, President Bush, impatient with congressional doubts over a possible war in Iraq, accused the Democratic-controlled Senate of being “not interested in the security of the American people.”
After Bush’s taunt appeared in the Washington Post, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle responded with an accusation of his own: Bush and his hawks were exploiting the possibility of war with Iraq for political gain.
In a speech delivered on the Senate floor on Sept. 25, Daschle told Bush:” We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death.”
In the end, that’s exactly what Daschle did.
In an Oct. 10 Senate hearing, Daschle caved under political pressure and voted yes to a resolution that gives Bush the authority to act unilaterally against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Daschle had expressed reservations about a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, saying that the threat of Iraq’s weapons programs “may not be imminent.”
Daschle wanted Bush to build an international coalition against Hussein at the United Nations, instead of going it alone.
Daschle was also concerned that a U.S. attack on Iraq would undermine efforts against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
But instead of uniting war opponents around these legitimate concerns, Daschle exchanged his integrity for political viability.
With November midterm elections a few weeks away, Daschle’s political instincts guided him to side with Bush on Iraq.
By ending the war debate, Daschle hoped to protect Democrat’s slim Senate majority and preserve his future presidential bid.
But if Daschle wanted a credible political platform, he should have put down his white flag and fired back the issues.
Daschle should have kept his war concerns under congressional deliberation, remembering that like Congress, the American people are also divided on the issue of war with Iraq.
Daschle should have also focused attention on the domestic problems that the Bush administration has ignored, like record job losses, slow economic growth, rising health care costs and weak homeland security.
But instead of being a leader, Daschle choose to fall on his ideological sword, keep his mouth shut and hope for the best.
Daschle said he supported the resolution because it was time for Congress to speak in a “clear and unified” voice.
But instead of a united Congress, we have a bullied legislature that protects its political life over our democratic future.
As a result, democracy failed. And so did Tom Daschle.
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