Democrats Continue to be Haunted by Failure to Stand Up To Republicans on Terrorism Issue Since 9/11

A report on terrorism policy in today’s Washington Post shows the problems the Democrats have had since 9/11. While the Democrats sought national unity following the attack, the Republicans played politics instead, setting up a situation where failing to agree with GOP policies was portrayed as being soft on fighting terrorism.

Once it was clear that the Republicans were playing politics with the terrorism issue, the Democrats should have stood up for preserving our liberties regardless of the threat. Basing their objection on such principles would not only be the right thing to do, but would provide the Democrats with a political argument they could campaign on. Democrats have also failed to make the case that restricting civil liberties is playing into the hands of terrorists and only acts to encourage them to continue this strategy.

Having failed to make the case based upon liberties, the Democrats now find themselves in a political bind:

The Democrats’ failure to rein in wiretapping without warrants, close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay or restore basic legal rights such as habeas corpus for terrorism suspects has opened the party’s leaders to fierce criticism from some of their staunchest allies — on Capitol Hill, among liberal bloggers and at interest groups.

At the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress yesterday, panelists discussing the balance between security and freedom lashed out at Democratic leaders for not standing up to the White House. “These are matters of principle,” said Mark Agrast, a senior fellow at the center. “You don’t temporize.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is running Internet advertisements depicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) as sheep.

“Bush wanted more power to eavesdrop on ordinary Americans, and we just followed along. I guess that’s why they call us the Democratic leadersheep,” say the two farm animals in the ad, referring to Congress’s passage of legislation granting Bush a six-month extension and expansion of his warrantless wiretapping program.

Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), who leads a newly created House select intelligence oversight panel, lamented, “Democrats have been slow to recognize they are in the majority now and can go back to really examine the fundamentals of what we should be doing to protect democracy.”

Reid and Pelosi promised last week that they would at least confront the president next month over his wiretapping program, with Pelosi taking an uncompromising stand in a private conference call with House Democrats. When lawmakers return in September, Democrats will also push legislation to restore habeas corpus rights for terrorism suspects and may resume an effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But conservative Democrats and some party leaders continue to worry that taking on those issues would expose them to Republican charges that they are weak on terrorism. And advocates of a strong push on the terrorism issues are increasingly skeptical that they can prevail.

Democrats would be in a far stronger position if they had made the case for liberty from the start as opposed to allowing the Republicans to frame the issue as being for or against defending the country against terrorism. Democrats might also find themselves having a harder time than anticipated in the 2008 election should Clinton or Edwards win the nomination considering their poor track records on the issue.

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  1. 1
    Donald Douglas says:

    The Dems are weak on national security, and rightly so. The more they hammer on lost liberties, with the hardline factions denouncing the “Bush/Cheney” regime, the more loony the party looks to rank and file voters.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    The only weakness the Democrats have showed on national security is failure to stand up to the Republicans. The Republicans have been wrong every steip of the way with regards to both terrorism and Iraq.

    What is particularly important is that the Republicans have also been wrong with regards to abandoning support for civil liberties and limitations on the power of government. Unfortunately the Democrats have alslo failed to make that point as well as they should have.

  3. 3 says:

    government over the people, we the people, should of had a vote on the war, instead of a handful of amateurs, based on what ifs. my feeling is that American people will take back their liberties and freedoms. the constitution is altered, there’s not a high penalty for corruption within government to higher officials, including the president, if you want to bypass the law, and break the law, just work for the government and change it.

    signed, we the people

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