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Say It's So, Joe

Vice President Lieberman?

Nov 19, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 10 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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If a senator gives a speech, and no major newspaper reports it, does it matter? Joe Lieberman spoke in Washington Thursday on "the politics of national security." The next day, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today ignored his talk. Most Democrats will ignore it. But five guys named Rudy, John, Fred, Mitt, and Mike will read it. So should you. To that end, we're happy to provide excerpts from the remarks of the independent Democrat from Connecticut:

Between 2002 and 2006, there was a battle within the Democratic Party. . . . We could rightly criticize the Bush administration when it failed to live up to its own rhetoric, or when it bungled the execution of its policies. But I felt that we should not minimize the seriousness of the threat from Islamist extremism, or the fundamental rightness of the muscular, internationalist, and morally self-confident response that President Bush had chosen in response to it.

But that was not the choice most Democrats made. . . . Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East or to prevail in Afghanistan. It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush.

Iraq has become the singular litmus test for Democratic candidates. No Democratic presidential primary candidate today speaks of America's moral or strategic responsibility to stand with the Iraqi people against the totalitarian forces of radical Islam, or of the consequences of handing a victory in Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran. And if they did, their campaign would be as unsuccessful as mine was in 2006. Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus' new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving. . . .

I offered an amendment earlier this fall, together with Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, urging the Bush administration to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and impose economic sanctions on them.

The reason for our amendment was clear. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress about the proxy war that Iran--and in particular, the IRGC and its Quds Force subsidiary--has been waging against our troops in Iraq. Specifically, General Petraeus told us that the IRGC Quds Force has been training, funding, equipping, arming, and in some cases directing Shiite extremists who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers. . . .

Although the Senate passed our amendment, 76-22, several Democrats, including some of the Democratic presidential candidates, soon began attacking it--and Senator Clinton, who voted for the amendment. In fact, some of the very same Democrats who had cosponsored the legislation in the spring, urging the designation of the IRGC, began denouncing our amendment for doing the exact same thing.

. . . [T]here is something profoundly wrong--something that should trouble all of us--when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran's murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops.

There is likewise something profoundly wrong when we see candidates who are willing to pander to this politically paranoid, hyper-partisan sentiment in the Democratic base--even if it sends a message of weakness and division to the Iranian regime.

For me, this episode reinforces how far the Democratic Party of 2007 has strayed. . . . That is why I call myself an Independent Democrat today. It is because my foreign policy convictions are the convictions that have traditionally animated the Democratic Party--but they exist in me today independent of the current Democratic Party, which has largely repudiated them.

I hope that Democrats will one day again rediscover and re-embrace these principles. . . . But regardless of when or if that happens, those convictions will continue to be mine. And I will continue to fight to advance them along with like-minded Democrats and like-minded Republicans.

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