June 24, 2005

Who Speaks For The Democrats?

Sorry if you're seeing it for the zillionth time, but here's the Karl Rove quote that has Democrats in an uproar:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

Almost as quickly as Democrats expressed their outrage and demanded Rove's resignation and apology, RNC head Ken Mehlman assembled and released a long list of quotes by liberals like George Soros, Michael Moore, Dennis Kucinich and MoveOn.org, taken from the days after 9/11, which bear out exactly what Rove was saying. (thanks Hugh)

That is, that numerous liberals made the points that the 9/11 attack should be considered a law enforcement matter as opposed to an act of war, or that we must understand the "root causes" of terrorism and demonstrate restraint, or that we brought on the attack ourselves by virtue of our policies with regard to Israel and the greater Middle East, etc.

Andrew Sullivan criticizes Rove for using the blanket term "liberals", which insinuates that all liberals took this position. He goes on to name Democrats and liberal pundits who took responsible, reality-based positions on the budding W.O.T., and notes that it was the extreme, hard Left, consisting of Moore, Soros and MoveOn.org, that reacted in the way that Rove characterized as the "liberals" response.

Andrew is right on that, but then he goes on to contend that if Rove had simply used the qualifier "some liberals", his remarks would have been "rendered completely unoffensive". Right, Andrew. If Rove had added the word "some", there probably would have been no outrage from Democrats at all. He accuses Rove of trying to "have it both ways" with his all or nothing rhetoric...

"He cannot both use the word liberal to describe everyone who is not a Republican and then, in other contexts, say he means it only for the hard left."

Well Andrew, you can't have it both ways either. You can't set apart the post-9/11 statements of George Soros, Michael Moore and MoveOn.org as being the rhetoric of the extreme left, and somehow not reflective of mainstream liberalism or the Democratic Party, true though it may be, while neglecting to acknowledge how the Party embraced Soros, Moore and MoveOn from that point on.

Yes, of course there were people like Joe Lieberman and Christopher Hitchens who spoke out. But Hitch was vilified as an apostate and Lieberman was marginalized in his party as a result. The Democratic Party could have repudiated Moore and Soros and MoveOn.org at that time, and sent a message to America that they were serious about national security and combatting Islamist terror. But they didn't.

They gladly accepted Soros' as their largest campaign supporter to the tune of some $30 million, to try to defeat George Bush. They flocked to Moore's movie, celebrated him, and sat him at Jimmy Carter's elbow during their convention. They welcomed MoveOn.org's organizational effort and fund-raising prowess (and rhetoric) for the Kerry campaign. They liked the sound of the Bush-bashing, and they embraced it. And in the process, they dragged their party and their presidential candidate far to the left of where Bill Clinton had left them in 2000. And they paid the price for that last November.

So if Michael Moore and George Soros and MoveOn.org don't speak for Democrats and/or liberals in this country, the Democrats sure weren't making that fact known to voters clearly enough in the last election. If they had, there might have been a different result.

I got a kick out of some of the questions for White House spokesman Scott McClellan at the press briefing the other day. He was asked if he felt that Rove's remarks were helping to "elevate the discourse", a phrase apparently used previously by the President. As you can see at the link, McClellan defended Rove's comments as simply a contrast of "different philosophies" in responding to the 9/11 attacks.

It certainly is arguable that Rove's statement was over-the-top, with too broad a brush, and all that. And if some Democrats are insulted, they can relish some feeling of moral superiority just knowing that while Darth Rove is spewing venom, the leader of their party organization is doing his level best to "elevate the discourse" in his own way:

"This is a struggle between good and evil. And we're the good"

"I hate Republicans and everything they stand for"

Related:

Michelle Malkin
Howard Kurtz
more Sullivan
Byron York
Tom Maguire
Glenn Reynolds

UPDATE 6/28: James Taranto makes some similar points about the Democrats' embrace of those "extremists" from whom they now pretend to distance themselves.

Posted by dan at June 24, 2005 1:43 AM