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December 28, 2005
Centrist Dems See 2006 Slipping Away, Too

Today's Washington Times reports on the qualms felt by centrist Democrats over recent efforts by their party to block national-security efforts by the Bush administration. Donald Lambro spoke with two influential DLC advisors, who express concern that the positions taken over the past month by Harry Reid and others in opposition to the Patriot Act and the NSA's efforts to surveil suspected terrorists on international calls will once again demonstrate that the Democrats cannot be trusted with national security decisions in the upcoming election:

Some centrist Democrats say attacks by their party leaders on the Bush administration's eavesdropping on suspected terrorist conversations will further weaken the party's credibility on national security. That concern arises from recent moves by liberal Democrats to block the extension of parts of the USA Patriot Act in the Senate and denunciations of President Bush amid concerns that these initiatives could violate the civil liberties of innocent Americans.

"I think when you suggest that civil liberties are just as much at risk today as the country is from terrorism, you've gone too far if you leave that impression. I don't believe that's true," said Michael O'Hanlon, a national-security analyst at the Brookings Institution who advises Democrats on defense issues. ...

"The Republicans still hold the advantage on every national-security issue we tested," said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster and former adviser to President Clinton, who co-authored a Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) memo on the party's national-security weaknesses.

Nervousness among Democrats intensified earlier this month after Democrats led a filibuster against the Patriot Act that threatened to block the measure, followed by a victory cry from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who declared at a party rally, "We killed the Patriot Act." ...

Recent polls say 56 percent of Americans approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing to protect the country from another terrorist attack.

Even the DLC recognizes the problem, but they have lost the attention of the party leadership as embodied by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Dean. All three have pitched in with the MoveOn faction of the radical Left, with Reid's now-infamous boast of having "killed" the Patriot Act -- and then watching as it got extended anyway. Both have votes on security issues that demonstrate nothing more than political expediency; both voted for Patriot before they voted against it, recalling the fecklessness of their last Presidential candidate.

Small wonder, then, that the DLC's internal polling shows the Democrats behind on national security issues by anywhere from four to ten points, even at this stage. Once the election cycles start in earnest and the current leadership makes its influence felt, those numbers will expand and probably will cost the Dems even more seats in both the House and Senate. As the Iraq War begins to phase out as an issue, domestic security and the pursuit of AQ will once again take center stage, and American voters won't be fooled with a lot of irrational Bush-hatred in a mid-term election.

One more worry that the Democrats should consider is this: After watching the liberal press dismantle the NSA program on the front pages of the Times and Harry Reid dancing like Grandpa Fred on the corpse of Patriot, the Democrats had better hope that George Bush keeps the country safe from an attack in the next few months. If an attack should occur, a lot of people will start asking what changed, and they're going to look at the New York Times and the Democrats to explain their actions.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 28, 2005 5:48 AM

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