Kennedy Takes On Cheney’s Remarks On Lamont Win

In today’s Hartford Courant, Sen. Ted Kennedy authored an op-ed responding to comments made by Vice President Dick Cheney about Ned Lamont’s victory in last week’s Democratic primary in Connecticut. Here’s the bulk of what Kennedy had to say:

The comments he made on the result of the Connecticut Democratic primary – that it might encourage “the al-Qaida types” who want to “break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task” – are an attack not just on Democrats, but on democracy itself.

What happened in Connecticut is in fact a model for democracies everywhere. The people of the state heard a vigorous debate between two competing visions of how to protect this country. Young citizens became deeply involved, and turnout was high. The primary reminded us of the miracle of our democracy, in which the nation is ruled by its people – not by any entrenched set of leaders. There are few better messages we could send the world in these troubled times.

Cheney’s comments about the election were ugly and frightening. They show once again that he and his party will stop at nothing to wrap Republicans in the flag and to insinuate that anyone who votes against them is giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. It’s obvious that this administration lacks basic respect for our fundamental freedoms

Additionally, here’s what Cheney actually said in its full context:

And as I look at what happened yesterday, it strikes me that it’s a perhaps unfortunate and significant development from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, that what it says about the direction the party appears to be heading in when they, in effect, purge a man like Joe Lieberman, who was just six years ago their nominee for Vice President, is of concern, especially over the issue of Joe’s support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.

The thing that’s partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.

And when we see the Democratic Party reject one of its own, a man they selected to be their vice presidential nominee just a few short years ago, it would seem to say a lot about the state the party is in today if that’s becoming the dominant view of the Democratic Party, the basic, fundamental notion that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won’t — we can’t be.

Now, I know that I’m about to take a position that most readers of OTB probably won’t agree with, but if one actually reads Cheney’s comments, they’re just a tad more complex than Kennedy’s op-ed insinuates. Cheney was not saying that Lamont is on al Qaeda’s side or that he is al Qaeda’s candidate–as some MSM coverage portrayed–but rather arguing that Lamont’s desire to pull troops out of Iraq by a certain date is exactly what the terrorists want. And I don’t see how anyone could argue to the contrary; that is, that the terrorists in Iraq wouldn’t be happy if Lamont got his way. American troops out of Iraq is their stated goal, after all.

Rather than supplying any arguments as to why Cheney’s statement is dead wrong, however, Kennedy instead partakes in the same type of hyperbole that he is supposedly trying to condemn by saying that his comments were “ugly and frightening,” an “attack” on democracy, and that they somehow represent a lack of “respect for our fundamental freedoms.” On all three counts, Kennedy seems to be reaching.

Suffice it to say, portraying criticism as some Orwellian plot to subvert democracy has certainly become the new pink. And frankly, coming from Kennedy, it’s a bit rich considering what he did to Robert Bork. But I digress. Kennedy’s talking points are lovely and surely fill the hearts of his followers with fire. But they don’t in any way begin to present a coherent argument that explains why pulling out of Iraq by a certain date–the end of year as desired by Lamont–is a reasonable and responsible policy for the United States. In fact, no Democrat to my knowledge has made such an argument.

So here’s my challenge. Spare me the sermon on the decline of political discourse and let’s hear the argument that Kennedy didn’t/couldn’t make. Why is pulling out of Iraq the right thing do now–or, as Lamont would like, by the end of the year? How will this move help make Iraq safer, the Middle East safer, and the United States safer? How will it lead to more stability in the region? How will it help the fight against jihadism? And how will it not serve to embolden our enemies that have already concluded from events past that the United States doesn’t have the stamina to endure a tough battle?

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Democracy, Middle East, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,


  1. Bill Faith says:

    Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.

  2. Tano says:

    Becuase the terroists, the al-Q people, are not Iraqis, and are in Iraq only becuase we are there – using Iraq as a battlefield to take us on. We all know what Iraqis think of foreigners in their country. As soon as we leave, you can expect to see a coming together of sorts of Iraqis against the Al-Q types. No doubt the Sunnis and Shia have a lot more fighting amongst themselves to do, and there are also issues involving Kirkuk to be resolved with the Kurds (bloodily, I fear) but those fights are not ones that we have the ability to influence (as the past three years have demonstrated).

    The problem in Iraq has always been 90%+ sectarian struggle for power, and

  3. Tano says:

    Sorry for the interruption – dont know what happened there. As I was saying….

    The problem in Iraq has always been 90%+ sectarian struggle for power, and

  4. Tano says:

    Oops, sorry again, it was me – I used a caret symbol.,…

    The problem in Iraq has always been 90%+ sectarian struggle for power, and less than 10% jihadi terroists. The jihadis have no long term interest in Iraq – it is obvious to all that their only contribution to the situation is to provoke sectarian violence in order to keep the situation chaotic and to provide cover for their own efforts against us. The Iraqis know this perfectly well. But for now, the al-Q types can claim some legitimacy by claiming to be fighting for the liberation of the country from the occupying Americans. Without our prescence there (we can stay nearby over the horizon), there is no rationale for the al-Q terrorists to remain there, and there will be precious little interest amongst Iraqis that they do so.

    I think you have been deeply confused by taking the administrations word for it when they claim that Iraq is part of the war on terror. It never was to begin with, except in the neocon fantasies (sorry for the endless repetition, but Iraq was the least al-Q infiltrated country in the Middle East, with probably fewer al-Q types than there were in Florida). They came to Iraq because of the opportunity to fight us, once we were there. Remeber flypaper? Our leaving will not inspire the terrorists, rather they will find themselves in hostile territory – as non-Iraqis in an Iraq that is now in charge of its own destiny.

  5. Michael says:

    terrorists in Iraq wouldn’t be happy if Lamont got his way. American troops out of Iraq is their stated goal, after all.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that our stated goal as well? Surely you don’t suggest that the US never intended to end it’s military occupation of Iraq?

  6. Michael says:

    Why is pulling out of Iraq the right thing do now—or, as Lamont would like, by the end of the year?

    One of the reasons we can’t beat the terrorists in Iraq is because they keep recruiting new terrorists to travel to Iraq to fight the Americans. If we aren’t there, fewer people would feel compelled to travel to Iraq to fight the popularly elected Arab Muslim government.

    How will this move help make Iraq safer, the Middle East safer, and the United States safer? How will it lead to more stability in the region?

    Any uninvited presence of US forces in the middle east is a destabilizing factor, surely you must admit this. The US is better off controlling the middle east through hegemony than through military force.

    How will it help the fight against jihadism?

    Once out of Iraq, we can redirect our military and intelligence resources back to the fight against jihadism. We can finally go back to looking for Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. I know, I know, we didn’t stop looking for them, but when was the last time you heard of US forces capturing an Al Qaeda leader not in Iraq?

    And how will it not serve to embolden our enemies that have already concluded from events past that the United States doesn’t have the stamina to endure a tough battle?

    And which past events have given our enemies this impression? Vietnam? Does that mean you think the US should have “stayed the course” in Vietnam? To what end?

    We’ve already shown that we cannot force the terrorists out of Iraq. Hercules couldn’t defeat the Hydra with his sword alone, no matter how many heads he cut off. In fact, every effort he made with his sword only made the problem worse. The US military is the sword, what we need, and what I believe the Iraqi people represent, is the fire.

  7. Because the corporations …, and global warming …

  8. Herb says:

    Who cares what Kennedy thinks or says.

    It’s usually the booze talking anyway.

  9. djneylon says:

    Yes, that’s it, if we all just run away, those nasty Islamic/Arab terrorists will leave us all alone … and pigs will fly. The fact is, they hate anyone who isn’t them and are dedicated to their destruction. They are killing more of their fellow Muslims in Iraq than they are Americans. Our occupation isn’t the problem, the problem is people they don’t like insist on living on the same planet as they do. Running away from a problem does not solve it. It did not solve anything when Jimmy Carter abandoned the Shah of Iran 27 years ago. It did not solve anything when Ronald Reagan pulled troops out of Lebanon after the Marine barracks were bombed. It did not solve anything when Bush I avoided deposing Saddam in the Kuwait war. It did not solve anything when Clinton treated the first attack on the WTC, the Khobar barracks attack, the embassy attacks as law enforcement issues; or when he responded to attacks on our troops in Somalia by withdrawing. After 9/11, Bush II said no more attacks — and there haven’t been any. What stopped people from attacking us directly? Attacking the people who attacked us by invading Afghanistan. Deposing a dictator who had killed thousands of his own citizens, twice invaded his neighbors and violated every UN treaty he signed. By agressively pursueing those who threatened our nation by tracking their phone calls and financial dealings. Be refusing to sign more deals with North Korea, the Palestinians or Iran, none of whom had any more credibility when it comes to keeping their promises than Saddam. Those who think pulling out of Iraq, or Israel, or Somalia or Kuwait or whatever other place we go to that upsets the Islamic terrorists, may do well to remember the lesson the terrorists have been teaching us since 1979 — you can run but you can’t hide. Instead, let us teach them the same lesson.

  10. Anderson says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that our stated goal as well? Surely you don’t suggest that the US never intended to end its military occupation of Iraq?


    If we EVER leave Iraq, the terrorists win!

  11. Michel and Tano,

    Do you really think that terrorist recruiting would slow down if they were seen to drive the US from Iraq (as opposed to leaving when a stable democracy had been set up)?

    Do you think other Muslim countries wouldn’t re-examine their support for the US in light of seeing the US unwilling to bear any burden, endure any hardship in the pursuit of freedom?

    Since OBL has cited the US response to the Beirut marine barracks bombing, the retreat in Somalia after losing some soldiers and other examples of the US being a paper tiger after taking losses, why do you think he wouldn’t use a precipitous US retreat from Iraq in a similar manner?

    Can you show in history where acceding to terrorist demands has resulted in a just and lasting peace?

    Greg is asking a very straight forward and reasonable question. Saying that lots of terrorists are coming to Iraq where we can have 10 or 100 to one kill ratios on them is not a persuasive argument against leaving.

  12. Stormy70 says:

    Of course, dead terrorists in Iraq are still dead. I prefer them facing our military than trying to get here en masse.
    Al qaeda is still being captured in Afghanistan, but the stories are not widely discussed. I think they just captured four in July.

  13. Tano says:


    What on earth makes you think that support for the US amongst “other Arab countries” is based on our intent to “bear any burden, endure any hardship in the pursuit of freedom”? You think that the monarchies and dictatorships in SA, Jordan, Egypt etc. support us because of our intent to democratize their countries? What are you smoking?

    I dont think anyone could sustain the illusion that our withdrawl from Iraq would have come about because of terrorists. Remember, over 90% of the violence is Iraqis vs. Iraqis, or Iraqi nationalists against occupation. Relatively little is jihadists. And most of their efforts are against Iraqis.

    What makes you think that our withdrawl would be “precipitous”? We have been there for 3 1/2 years now. We accomplished our primary missions – getting rid of Saddam, allowing the majority factions to come to power, and insuring that there would not be WMD on the loose (that one was easier than we thought (snark)). We have given the jihadists a battle-space in which they have considerable advantages. We have tasked ourselves with running a chaotic country, and trying to build something there. This is ideal for the jihadists. They can hide amongst the chaos, find some support from the locals because of their claim to be fighting invaders, and they can easily sabotage everything that we are trying to build. When we leave, the Iraqis will quickly realize that their country is in their own hands, that any sabotage is really, unambiguously, anti-Iraqi sabotage, rather than anti-invader sabotage, and the people who are trying to do something positive for the country will not be in danger of being tarred with the label of traitors, working for the invaders. Our withdrawl simplifies the situation to the favor of the Iraqis who we would like to see succeed.

    Your remark about kill ratios is quite telling. You admit implicitly that we are using Iraq as a battlespace for our own struggles against an outside party. The ol’ fight them there rather than here line. Well, what about the Iraqis in this? They have suffered quite enough, dont you think? Tens of thousands of innocents killed because we want to use their country to fight non-iraqi jihadists. The longer we do so, the less support we can ever hope to have from the iraqis themselves.

    You need to understand that withdrawl from Iraq is not only the position of those who have disagreed with the policy all along. It is also the wisest move from the perspective of those who still wish to accompish as much of the original agenda as possible. Our continued presence there is taking us further from the goals that we set out for the country – so you cant use a steadfast committment to the goals as an argument for continued support for the self-defeating present policy.

  14. legion says:

    The problem here is that too many people on the right, most especially the neocons who got us into this mess in the first place, drastically understimate the terrorists. Whatever you think of their morals, they are intelligent, thinking human beings (insert your own partisan political joke here). Yes, Iraq makes a great training ground for jihadists too rabid to melt into polite society, but if my guys are outnumbered 5 to 1, and the other guys also have total superiority in firepower, technology, and logistics, I’m _not_ going to send my best & brightest to die pointlessly. Contrary to the utterly insipid ‘flypaper’ theory, I’m going to send them where the good guys _aren’t_ on full alert. Like the Philippines. Like Madrid. Like London (at least a few months ago). The longer we fight in Iraq, the less likely we are to be killing terrorists there. They may be suicidal, but they’re not stupid enough to be willing to die there (again, insert your own partisan snark here).