Thursday, September 26, 2002

What Does Danny Inouye Have To Do With This?

The papers and the blogs today chew on Senate Majority Leader's speech yesterday. It is alternately described as an "emotional outburst" and an "angry retort" to President Bush. Sullivan thinks that Bush crossed the line questioning Democratic concerns about issues of national security, but that Daschle's speech was really a reaction to former Vice President Gore's speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. James Lileks thinks Daschle was in full Senate vanity mode. Others opine that Daschle was positioning himself for the 2004 presidential campaign.

I think Lileks has it right. In the bigger picture, I think Daschle's speech underscores how little the Democrats have offered to this ongoing debate about pre-emption/containment in the age of genomic warfare. It is the preeminent policy issue of our time. The President has addressed it with speeches to Congress, the UN, West Point, the German Parliament and in a long memorandum concerning the national security policy of the United States. Others in the Administration, including (and in no particular order) Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Dick Cheney, Tom Ridge and Richard Clarke (electronic terrorism), have spoken at length and in detail on various aspects of the new policy of necessary preemption. Former Reagan and Bush One Administration officials have also addressed the issue in op-eds and press interviews.

It seems to me long past time that the Democrats joined this debate. It doesn't count to say: we need multi-lateral support. It doesn't count to say: we need to win the war against Al Qaeda first. It doesn't count to pretend that one can read Saddam's mind. The larger issue of preemption/containment needs to be engaged and addressed. Until it is, the Democrats won't have the standing to criticize the so-far remarkably successful war on terror that has been waged by the American military under the command of President Bush.