Dec 15, 2003
On December 9, Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination. With the Democratic caucuses and primaries about to start right after the holidays, this gives Dean a boost facing the eight other major candidates.
In fact Dean, the former governor of Vermont, was already ahead in the polls, although no one would have predicted this six months ago. After all, Dean then wasn't well known nationally, and he comes from a very small state. Yet he's had the biggest, most enthusiastic audiences at his rallies and he seems to have collected more money than any of the other Democrats.
In great measure, Dean built up a following by speaking about the war in Iraq. He often repeats, "I opposed President Bush's war from the beginning."
Dean is not the only Democratic candidate to position himself as a critic of this war, nor the only one to get support from a big Democratic honcho.
General Wesley Clark has also suggested that he questioned this war from the beginning. He has said, "I wasn't one of those who was anxious to get into Iraq. I always was skeptical of it. I always doubted that there was an imminent danger that required us to do it." Clark was encouraged to run for the nomination by some other big names in the Democratic Party – Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.
What's happened? Has the Democratic Party suddenly become against this war? They certainly weren't when resolutions were passed authorizing this war and the spending for it. The Democrats each time provided enough votes to let Bush say he had bi-partisan support, with the majority of Senate Democrats going on record favoring an immediate war. As for those who voted against, almost of them made it clear their disagreement lay only with Bush's decision to go to war before the U.N. authorized it.
So, what's changed? The war, of course, has turned out to be something less than the triumph Bush pretended. But that's not a surprise – that had been predicted from the beginning. What changed were the polls that showed from week to week growing opposition to this war in the population. And the Democrats, although they may be rotten, aren't stupid. They know that this opposition is much more widespread and profound even than what is revealed in the polls. If that weren't true, an unknown like Dean couldn't have made such an impact.
This use of the war issue by top Democrats doesn't mean that they have been against the war all along. Al Gore, who supposedly was the most uneasy about war expressed himself thus in September 2002: "Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction." He said he supported "regime change," and said it should be carried out with the U.S.'s allies and the support of the U.N. In other words, he didn't oppose the war, he only wanted to hide behind the cover of the U.N. when going into Iraq.
If the Democrats today seem ready to carry out a campaign based on a supposed opposition to the war, it's only to get votes, not to oppose this war. In fact, if elected they would carry out the same horrific war.