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Analysis: Democrats Find Issue Of Military Intervention In Iraq A Political Dilemma

All Things Considered: September 19, 2002

The Democrats' Dilemma



JOHN YDSTIE, host:

According to the Pew surveys Americans tend to say that the Republicans can handle foreign policy better than the Democrats, while the Democrats find their strength on domestic issues. NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says this presents the Democrats with a dilemma.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Today's newspapers illustrate the nature of the Democrats' dilemma. On the Senate floor yesterday, Majority Leader Tom Daschle delivered a slashing attack on the Bush economic record as tragic, deplorable, abysmal. Budget director Mitchell Daniels dismissed the speech as a tantrum. In the papers that I saw, the story ended up deep in the inside pages.

With Congress in gridlock, all but doomed to a lame-duck session after the election, facing the need for stopgap spending resolutions to keep the government afloat, you would think the Democrats would be making political hay. But they aren't. Mr. Bush as the war leader, dealing with some ill-defined Iraqi menace, continues to hold the high ground among voters. It is, so far at least, as White House political adviser Karl Rove suggested at a Republican political conference last January. The war against terrorism will be a good issue to take to the country.

In something close to panic, the Democrats don't talk any longer of a great national debate and several weeks of hearings to test the rationale for war. The Democrats now want to see a resolution passed as speedily as possible to get the issue off the agenda.

In The Washington Post today, Senator John Edwards goes so far as to offer the administration suggestions for wording of the resolution in the interest of speeding things up. The New Republic this week expresses itself as despondent over the Democrats acting as bystanders while the Bush administration prepares to put in play a radical new doctrine of pre-emptive warfare.

But the Democrats continue to act as though they just want the issue to go away so they can go back to debating domestic issues. They are betting an awful lot on the expectation that voters will soon tire of tyrants and terrorists and go back to voting on jobs and Medicare. This is Daniel Schorr.

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