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July 28, 2006
Pander Bears

Instead of the donkey as a party mascot, the Democrats may want to consider a more exotic animal. Peter Beinart has a suggestion -- the pander bear. Beinart scolds Democrats for mindless and ineffective pandering to the pro-Israeli crowd by demanding that Nouri al-Maliki make himself into a sock puppet for America when he came to address Congress:

After years of struggling to define their own approach to post-Sept. 11 foreign policy, Democrats seem finally to have hit on one. It's called pandering. In those rare cases when George W. Bush shows genuine sensitivity to America's allies and propounds a broader, more enlightened view of the national interest, Democrats will make him pay. It's jingoism with a liberal face.

The latest example came this week when Democratic senators and House members demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki either retract his criticisms of Israel or forfeit his chance to address Congress. Great idea. Maliki -- who runs a government propped up by U.S. troops -- is desperate to show Iraqis that he is not Washington's puppet. And the United States desperately needs him to succeed because, unless he gains political credibility at home, his government will have no hope of surviving on its own. ...

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid demanded that Maliki eat his words or be disinvited from addressing Congress. "Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raise serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East," wrote Reid and fellow Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Charles E. Schumer on July 24.

How, exactly, publicly humiliating Maliki and making him look like an American and Israeli stooge would enhance his "leadership" was never explained in the missive. But of course Reid's letter wasn't really about strengthening the Iraqi government at all; that's George W. Bush's problem. It was about appearing more pro-Israel than the White House and thus pandering to Jewish voters.

The eruption of war on Israel's northern border has made a number of Democrats nervous about their standing with American Jews. The party took them for granted before then, and reasonably so, as the vast majority (75%, if I recall) continued to support Democrats for national office. However, this constituency has seen their party start tilting so far left that they worry about American support for Israel in time of war, especially given the Democrats' knee-jerk hatred of an administration that has consistently stood by Israel.

Instead of simply supporting the administration in the current crisis, which would not have had any effect on their arguments against the war in Iraq, they chose to remain confrontational and invent a crisis where none existed. They forgot that Maliki represents the Iraqis, who do not have an overwhelming love for Israel. Neither do Egypt or Jordan, and Democrats in previous administrations managed to maintain courteous relations with the leaders of both countries -- neither of whom headed representative democracies. Instead of listening with diplomatic courtesy to a man who has pledged his support for the effort against terrorism in his own country, they called him an anti-Semite and went out of their way to deliver a diplomatic insult.

As Beinart writes, this shows that the Democrats do not have any principles to offer the American voter except their status as the anti-Bush. That only takes them so far, and when Bush retires in 2009, this party will have nothing left at all, except pandering through cheap rhetorical stunts like they did this week. If anyone ever wanted an example of why Americans of all stripes should not trust Democrats with national security and international relations, Harry Reid and his Pander Bears provided it in spades.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 28, 2006 10:19 AM

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