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Where's the Leadership? | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Where's the Leadership?

Read the New York Times' article (" Democratic Lawmakers Keep Their Heads Down While Letting the Generals Speak Out") for clues about what's wrong with the opposition party in this great country. It is silent, virtually mute. (For notable exceptions, see Dennis Kucinich's recent statement, "This War is Wrong and Must End," and Barbara Lee's Resolution 141, titled "Disavowing the Doctrine of Preemptive strategy.") Res 141 was co-sponsored by 21 House Democrats, all members of the Progressive Caucus, including Jesse Jackson, Jr, John Conyers, Barney Frank, Lynn Woolsey, George Miller, Bob Filner and Maxine Waters.

As one Democratic Party consultant put it: "Democrats don't need to do any criticism of the Bush Administration right now. The unnamed generals are doing that job for them." So, now we're depending on retired generals, rather than our elected representatives, to speak the truth about this war. If the majority of Democrats in Congress are afraid to criticize for fear of Republican backlash, who will speak for the millions of Americans who oppose the war? The generals? Not my idea of leadership.

For a much needed civics lesson, George Kennan's " Letter to the Editor" in the Washington Post (March 25, 2003) should be required reading for all Dems. One of America's leading establishment figures, now age 99, frail and living in Princeton, Kennan has more mojo than the current Democratic leadership combined.

"I am extremely concerned about the shameful, almost total passivity of Congress during the period of preparations for our military attack on Iraq. (I recognize as exceptions Senator Robert Byrd's noble statement in the Senate and the belated but vigorous statements of Senator Thomas A. Daschle.) Congress's inaction is a dangerous precedent in executive-legislative relations. In light of this precedent, future presidents will be tempted to seize virtually dictatorial powers under the title of commander in chief and nothing in our history rules out the possibility of their yielding to that temptation. This seems to be the meaning of the recent crisis."

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