Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 25, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: John Edwards' Fantasy World
I hate to waste my time, and yours, beating up on a minor candidate for the presidency. And I am tempted to dismiss John Edwards as just that - the man served but a single wholly undistinguished term in the Senate (which he rarely attended and had to leave because he could not have been re-elected), he has no accomplishments whatsoever in public life, and he is unserious to the point of claiming that he was not personally involved in his own haircut.
That being said, Edwards is currently leading the Democratic field in Iowa polls, and tied for second in New Hampshire, so one must take seriously his recent statement that "[t]he war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics," rather than an actual, live struggle against murderous fanatics. Put simply, Edwards is living in a left-wing fantasy world where the war is just a political "frame" and George Bush's greatest sin is in choosing to fight it.
Edwards touched off a firestorm of controversy with this speech Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. Let's walk through it:
The core of this presidency has been a political doctrine that George Bush calls the "Global War on Terror." He has used this doctrine like a sledgehammer to justify the worst abuses and biggest mistakes of his administration, from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to the war in Iraq.
Let's pause a moment and recall that not only did Edwards vote for that war, he co-sponsored the war resolution and was if anything even more emphatic than the Bush Administration - based, one would assume, upon intelligence he reviewed as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee - that, in Edwards' own words:
Almost no one disagrees with these basic facts: that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a menace; that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he is doing everything in his power to get nuclear weapons; that he has supported terrorists; that he is a grave threat to the region, to vital allies like Israel, and to the United States; and that he is thwarting the will of the international community and undermining the United Nations' credibility.
(Edwards has similarly, er, revised his views on Iran). Of course, Edwards calls for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq but says
I believe that once we are out of Iraq, the U.S. must retain sufficient forces in the region to prevent a genocide, deter a regional spillover of the civil war, and prevent an Al Qaeda safe haven.
Prevent a genocide where? Prevent an Al Qaeda safe haven where? I think he means we will need to go right back into a four-letter country starting with "I" and ending with "Q".
But back to that "political doctrine," you know, the one that caused Bush to set off bombs in Bali and London and massacre schoolchildren in Beslan . . . wasn't that Bush? Anyway:
It is now clear that George Bush's misnamed "war on terror" has backfired -- and is now part of the problem.
By framing this as a "war," we have walked right into the trap that terrorists have set -- that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war against Islam.
There you have it: there is no war. It's just a slogan. Note also his use of the term "frame," which if you are a normal person who does not obsess over left-wing websites you may not know, but it's basically a popular concept on the Left about how Republicans "frame" issues . . . it's an idea beloved by people who think that even such issues as war and peace can be glossed over by the careful use of soothing talking points. You will scan the speech in vain for any effort to deal with who the enemy is or what they believe in or what they do - because, after all, naming the enemy or acknowledging the existence of the threat would get us back to those "frames" again.
Predictably, Edwards drew withering fire for this nonsense, which flies in the face of things he said in 2004 - Rudy Giuliani called it dangerous "denial" and added, "In case you missed it -- and I guess this Democratic candidate doesn't remember it -- bin Laden declared war on us." Mitt Romney ripped him for having his "head in the sand," and quoted Burke's line about how "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." And President Bush responded that
This notion about how this isn't a war on terror, in my view, is naive. It doesn't -- it doesn't reflect the true nature of the world in which we live.
If you wanted further proof that Edwards has gone off to live in Howard Deanistan, check out this, from the same speech:
[W]e must avoid actions that will give terrorists or even other nations an excuse to abandon international law. As president, I will close Guantanamo Bay, restore habeas corpus, and ban torture.
Yes, terrorists need an excuse to abandon international law. Suuuuuuuure. But then, Edwards has framed the issue - so there's no need to consider the possibility that maybe there really is a war on.