In the classic film Casablanca, the Gestapo
orders Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) to close the saloon
owned by Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine. Needing a pretext, Renault
seizes the law against gambling: "I'm shocked, shocked to
find that gambling is going on in here!"1
At which point, a croupier hands Renault
a pile of money.
Just as gambling can be found in nightclubs,
politics can be found in Washington. The approach of most - though
not all - leading Democrats to Iraq issue is no exception.
In a debate that should have been characterized
by a thoughtful assessment of the threats posed by Saddam Hussein
and the best ways to alleviate them, it has seemed that every
move of some leading Democrats is a instead a calculated maneuver
against President Bush.
Take the bizarre trip of Congressional
Democrats Jim McDermott (D-WA), Mike Thompson (D-CA) and House
Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI) to Baghdad, where they criticized
Bush in Hussein's front yard. The spectacle was so clearly inappropriate
that Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, usually a Democratic Party sympathizer,
compared the men to a bunch of "Hanoi Janes."2 Except,
Clift said, what the lawmakers did was worse.
Jane Fonda was a confused young actress.
The Baghdad Johnnies are congressional veterans who have repeatedly
sworn an oath to protect the U.S. against all enemies.3
Fortunately, some other Democrats, notably
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO), put these men to shame.
Though no Bush supporter, Gephardt distanced himself from the
Baghdad Johnnies by supporting a genuine debate and resolution
expressing the will of Congress on Iraq.
Gephardt also distinguished himself from
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), who urged Bush to get
congressional approval for his Iraq policy while Daschle used
his control over the Senate calendar to halt consideration of
the war resolution. The hypocrisy didn't stop. While complaining
that Bush shouldn't erode legislative branch powers by moving
on Iraq without Congressional consent, Daschle announced the Senate
would only consider the matter after the U.N. had provided guidance.
Does Daschle truly believe that erosion of legislative power to
the executive branch is bad while its erosion to the U.N. is good?
Finally, when Bush delivered a well-regarded
speech to the U.N. and the political tide shifted toward Bush,
although the basic issues were unchanged, Daschle abruptly switched
Then there's Al Gore. Gore famously was
accused by several Senators of offering his vote on the first
Persian Gulf War to the side that would give him the most TV time.
Then Gore seemingly became a committed hawk, taking tough anti-Hussein
positions during the Clinton-Gore years and in the months following
the September 11 attacks. Now he's staked out the far-left pacifist
Approximately three-fourths of the donors
of the Democratic Party - donors Gore will need should he mount
another run at the White House - take the far-left line on Iraq.
At the conclusion of Casablanca, the formerly
bitter Rick Blaine and Captain Renault shed their cynicism and
self-centeredness, deciding to join the fight for freedom and
"Louis," says Blaine, "I
think this is the start of a beautiful friendship."5
If only it could happen in Washington.
Amy Ridenour is President of
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington,
D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Casablanca, Warner Brothers, 1942.
2 Eleanor Clift, "Bizarre Behavior," Capitol
Letter, Newsweek, October 4, 2002. Downloaded from http://www.msnbc.com/news/817180.asp
on October 12, 2002.
3 Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington,
4 For an interesting review of Daschle's and Gore's recent
posturing on Iraq, see Stephen F. Hayes, "War is Hell...
For the Democrats," The Weekly Standard, October 7,
2002, available on the internet as of October 15, 2002 at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/706mgbuj.asp.