Halloween both came early and lasted long for the Democrats this year, as they donned the costumes of an antiwar party. After three and a half years of outright support—or on occasion only the most tepid criticisms—of the Iraq war, Democratic politicians across the land suddenly sprang into action. Even Sunday afternoon football games now heard the outcries. During the many commercial breaks these spectacles of beer, blood and country now featured politicians attacking their opponents’ support of Mr. Bush’s disastrous adventure. Rarely has a party that has done so little to oppose a war protested so much.
New York’s two rather influential senators provide little hope that the Democrats will actually “change the course” of the war, however. An almost gleeful Chuck Schumer recently told the New York Times that “Iraq and foreign policy are to a large extent albatrosses around the Republicans’ neck this year. And they don’t know what to do about it.” As head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Schumer helped the Dems suddenly seize the moment and attack the Republicans on Iraq; yet as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Schumer has shown absolutely no evidence that he knows “what to do about” the war. Soon-to-be 2008 Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is a bit clearer about her views of the situation. As Clinton told Nightline in September, she is not at all ready for the U.S. to leave Iraq, because “If there were a failed state now in control of all that oil, that would have consequences for a long time.” While some of us may think that the current situation is a matter of widespread destruction and exponentially mounting casualties, our leaders know what’s really at stake: party politics and oil prices.
The people living through the chaos no doubt have a different set of priorities. About the only certainty is that the U.S. presence is now seen as far more harmful than helpful in the creation of a new Iraqi government. As the Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid wrote at the end of October, there is “no way forward for an Iraqi government ordered to act by Americans who themselves are still seen as the final arbiter and, as a result, still depriving that government of legitimacy.” At this point, the only people calling for the U.S. to stay in Iraq are Bush officials, U.S. senators, and Christopher Hitchens. Yet if nothing else, by campaigning against the war, the Democrats have at least made themselves equally accountable for what happens in its next phase—and the 2008 campaign is already underway.