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Commentary: Conspicuous Absence of Any Substantive Opposition to the Idea of Military Campaign Against Iraq

All Things Considered: September 30, 2002

No Host for the Peace Party


The less likely it looks that President Bush will achieve a United Nations resolution sanctioning the use of force against Iraq, the more he needs an outsized majority in Congress for a resolution to the same effect.


NPR News analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The prospects for that look good because no significant peace constituency has emerged among Democratic leaders. Al Gore and Senator Edward Kennedy are conspicuous exceptions. So are three maverick House members who turned up in Iraq to say that Bush was misleading the American people. But the current political atmosphere is not at all like the time of the Vietnam War, when Senator William Fulbright led a vigorous opposition. Nor is it like the run-up to the Gulf War, when influential Senator Sam Nunn was among 45 Democrats who voted against war-making authority for President Bush the elder.

Senator Tom Daschle, who was one of the 45, clashed with the president last week over a perceived insult, but he's been cooperative in drafting the Iraq resolution. John Kerry has been little heard from on the issue. Even the dovish Paul Wellstone found himself last week the target of a sit-in by protesters who thought that he'd not been strong enough in opposing military action.

The Wall Street Journal says today that the Democrats are `haunted and divided by their Vietnam ghosts,' and columnist Bob Novak writes that Democratic leaders have blundered badly in not becoming the peace party. Why the Democrats sound such an uncertain trumpet is not hard to divine. A Washington Post/ABC poll reports that Americans, 61 to 34 percent, favor military action. And although 69 percent express concerns about the economy, only 13 percent blame the president for the troubles. Under the circumstances, opposing President Bush on the war issue would be painting a profile in political courage. But profiles in courage seem to be out of fashion. This is Daniel Schorr.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): Along with Iraq, the other major story we're following today comes from New Jersey and the campaign of Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli. Senator Torricelli has dropped out of his re-election race. He made the announcement late this afternoon at a news conference in Trenton. Torricelli spent the day talking with Democratic Party leaders about possible replacements and about the legal issues involved in getting a new candidate on the ballot. Senator Torricelli was slipping in the polls and he was dogged by stories about corruption. Earlier this year, a Senate ethics panel rebuked him for improperly accepting gifts from a businessman who is now in prison.

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