Swords Into Plowshares
By David Brooks, Published: November 15, 2003 - The New York Times
I've been waiting for one of the trailing Democratic presidential candidates to give the following speech. Since none have, I'm offering it to them, free of charge:
My fellow Democrats, it's good to be back in New Hampshire today. But I'd like to throw away my stump speech and talk honestly about the state of this campaign.
I am losing. Howard Dean is crushing me. He has money. He has a movement. And he's had one other big advantage: no opposition.
From the moment his campaign took off, the rest of us contenders tried to mimic his success. We ratcheted up our attacks on the Bush administration. We became more combative. We attacked the war in Iraq. In short, we've tried to be better Howard Deans than Howard Dean. The results have been pathetic.
Oh sure, we sniped at him at times. We pointed out his flip-flops and his gaffes. But Dean's core strength is that he is tough enough to stand up to the Republicans. His supporters don't care if he's flip-flopped on issues or if he makes a gaffe or two. They just want to know he can take on Karl Rove.
Howard Dean is liberal aggression, and none of us have ever taken that on until today. But now I am relaunching my campaign around one simple slogan: Stop the War.
I don't mean the war in Iraq. I mean the war at home. I mean the partisan war between Republicans and Democrats that rages every day in Washington and produces behavior that would be unacceptable in any other arena of life. I mean the war that poisons our airwaves, clogs up our best-seller lists and stagnates our politics.
I've lived at the front: it's in Washington, D.C. This is World War I. Each party has its trench works. Each party has its heavy artillery. Anybody who dares wander from the predictable party lines and do something unorthodox gets his head blown off.
Nothing ever changes.
If Dean is our nominee, he may fight the Beltway wars more aggressively than other Democrats, but we will still be a nation at war. I have seen Dean up close. The man hates his opponents. His kind thrives only during times of domestic war.
If we nominate Dean, it will be bad for our party and bad for our country. It will be bad for our party because 40 percent of the voters in this nation call themselves moderates.
If we nominate Dean, George Bush will have a good shot at winning a large chunk of those votes. That's disgraceful after the partisan way George Bush has led this country. But it will be our fault because we nominated someone just as partisan on the other side.
But suppose Dean does win the White House. He'll propose some good legislation. I'll support it, but it will never get passed. Because each party will still be down in its trenches, and nothing will move except the bouncing of the rubble and the writhing of the wounded.
We've all seen the Dean style. If he is elected, we will be a nation at war every second of his term. I don't even want to think about what our country would be like after four years of that.
Remember when George Bush used to say he was going to change the tone in Washington? He lied about that. He couldn't even reach out to Jim Jeffords, a moderate in his own party. He was never going to reach out to Democrats. He is too intellectually insecure. He can't handle people who disagree with him, so he retreats into the cocoon of the like-minded.
I'm opting out of the game of tit for tat. I'm going to get us out of the trenches.
If I do nothing else in the Oval Office, I will free people to build new coalitions, explore new ideas and talk to one another for the first time in a decade.
This is an evenly divided country. That is the political fact of our time. It is about time we had a president who understands that, who has a strategy for governing in such circumstances. Howard Dean and George Bush do not. They just want to pound away and pound away and ram things through. More artillery, more troops, more screaming and more hatred.
As for me, I say no more war. I'm for movement. I'm for progress, and if you are, too, come along with me.