Saturday, January 08, 2005
The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat
Here is an excerpt from his speech. The rest can be found here.
Many of us can remember when this view [the post-Vietnam Democrat mindset] arrived: It was the 1972 election when the Democratic Party of FDR, Harry Truman and JFK was taken over by the anti-war Democratic Party of George McGovern. From that point on, a post-Vietnam mindset dominated the Democratic Party. We never got over it. And it grew into the view that America was always the problem. Our enemies – never called Communists – were considered excessive reformers whose motives were noble. Meanwhile America’s motives, and those of our allies, were always suspect.
Those who adopted this post-Vietnam mindset considered the primary output of capitalism to be poverty, and argued that poverty – not any lust for power in the Kremlin or Cuba – was the cause of Communist revolts around the world. They preached that military force never solved anything – and that if it did, it shouldn’t. It was almost as if they wanted to protect the world from America.
These Democratic radicals opposed our funding of the Contras in Nicaragua. They opposed our support for El Salvador against Marxist guerillas and, generally, our support for freedom fighters anywhere in the world. They opposed our weapons systems as the main threat to world peace. They attacked, resisted, tried to cancel or cut just about every weapons system that President Reagan proposed to win the Cold War. The list is long: the B-1 Bomber, the MX missile, the Pershing missile, the Abrams tank, the Bradley fighting vehicle, the Trident submarine, and many other fighters and carriers. All were condemned as militaristic and unnecessary.
In place of a strong national defense, they proposed the nuclear freeze, the ban on nuclear testing, more U.N. funding, unlimited foreign aid and unending negotiations. These, they told us, were the paths to a safe world.
Some dared to call these Democrats the “Blame America First” crowd, and rightly so. For when the Berlin Wall fell and a half billion people from the Urals to the Baltic, from Siberia to the Crimea, became free, those who had been giving America all the blame now failed to give America any of the credit. The Cold War was the greatest victory for freedom in the history of the world. But those of the post-Vietnam mindset praised it not.
So America entered the post-Cold War era still conflicted. But the divisions were latent – until 9/11, when we learned new lessons of freedom in a grassy field in Pennsylvania, the halls of the Pentagon and the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. On that unforgettable day – the day historian David McCullough has called the worst in U.S. history – the scales of the American worldview tipped back toward reality. Americans rediscovered that the world is a dangerous place, that freedom is fragile, and that America cannot ignore its role as leader of the free world.
But while 9/11 woke up many to these cold hard facts of life, it also stirred the dormant but un-diminished ghost of Vietnam. The same stroke that unleashed the war in Iraq let loose a host of demons from the past. For the “Blame America First” crowd, it was as if the question of what is in the best interest of our nation during a time of war was never asked, or its answer never heeded.
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