GEPHARDT’S 16 WORDS
Bill Kristol wants to know why there has been comparatively little reaction to Tueday’s utterance by Dick Gephardt, “George Bush has left us less safe and less secure than we were four years ago.”
Bush’s words, though probably a mistake, didn’t change anything. The vote to authorize war had taken place months before. The arguments for and against war had all been made and re-made. The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate — even if one accepts the State Department’s modest dissent to one of its findings — shows that the president acted in good faith in making his case about the danger of Hussein’s quest for weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Gephardt’s 16 words, by contrast, change everything. They reflect the considered judgment of a centrist Democratic presidential candidate, one who voted to authorize the war, that his party must stand in fundamental opposition to the Bush foreign policy. They indicate the capture of the Democratic Party by the pace-setter in the presidential race, former Vermont governor Howard Dean.
Brad DeLong disagrees, writing two days before Gephardt’s speech that America is indeed worse off.
Well, and there’s also the fact that Gephardt’s 16 words – right or wrong – didn’t get us into a preemptive war.
Let’s see, four years ago was 1999, which is when most analysts I’ve read think 911 was being planned. We were thus “safe enough” that terrorists could successfully prepare to launch the most devastating terrorist attack two years later. Now, if Gephardt really does believe what he’s saying, then it means, by his own reasoning, we’re two years away from a bigger terrorist attack than 911. So what’s Dick doing about it?
These people need to make a decision. Either Rumsfeld has turned America into an over-protective police state, or Bush has made us less safe overall. I don’t think both things together can exist.