On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called Democratic opponents of war in Iraq “reckless.” DeLay assailed last weekend’s “outrageous” speech by former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., to the Democratic National Committee. The applause that greeted Dean’s speech “proves who the Democrat Party is,” DeLay told reporters. “They are fast becoming the appeasement party.”
It’s easy to see why DeLay is angry. In his speech, Dean called the war a “quagmire” and compared it to Vietnam. He said it would “drag on,” costing billions of dollars. He accused the president of failing to specify how long our troops would have to stay, and he urged the administration to withdraw them “before the body bags start coming home.”
Maybe if Dean had stopped there, his remarks could have been shrugged off. But he went further. He accused the president of double standards and twisted priorities, implying ulterior motives. “North Korea continues to flaunt international law by speeding ahead with their nuclear program with no consequences whatsoever,” Dean charged. And despite the bombing of Afghanistan, he observed, “Osama Bin Laden still represents a threat to thousands of American lives.”
That was bad enough, but Dean wasn’t finished. He suggested that the United States should curb its warlike impulses to avoid offending other countries. “The White House has bombed its way around the globe,” he sneered. “International respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly.” As for the current war plan, Dean complained that “no one wants us to be there” and that the president’s crusade “has made the Russians jittery and has harmed [our] standing in the world.”
Then there was the creepy way Dean kept referring to the president. He called the showdown “Bush’s undeclared war” and “Bush’s bombing campaign.” He described it as something “the president has put us into” and warned his audience, “We should think very, very seriously whether we are going to take ownership of the bombing”—as though the president weren’t the nation’s commander in chief. He urged Congress to de-fund the war and “pull out the forces we now have in the region.”
Dean essentially called the United States the war’s villain. Once a U.S.-led coalition “starts meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, where does it stop?” he asked. He charged that we were “starting to resemble a power-hungry imperialist army” and portrayed our mission as an “occupation by foreigners.”
Dean even defended the enemy’s defiance of the international community. It was unfair and unrealistic of the United States, he suggested, to demand that a dictator “agree to allow foreign troops … to have free rein over the entire country.” This was like asking him to “slit his throat with his own people,” said Dean. “No wonder” the dictator refused.
Maybe DeLay is right. Maybe any politician who said these things is, in DeLay’s words, unfit for national leadership. If so, DeLay has the power to remove that politician from office today. These things were never said about Bush’s war in Iraq. They were said on the House floor four years ago—on March 11, April 28, and May 6, 1999—about President Clinton’s war in Kosovo. And they were said not by Howard Dean, but by Tom DeLay.