Tuesday, August 22, 2006


"Soft" (?) Democrats

My conservative friend H assures me that Democrats are soft on terror, just as they were once soft on communism. It doesn't do me any good to try to convince H that he is wrong about Democrats being soft on anything. He believes it with just as much certainty as the devout Catholic who believes in the virgin birth and the immaculate conception.

This belief that we Democrats are soft on things like communism and terror has bothered me. I keep wondering, parhaps we really are soft. What does "soft" on terror or "soft" on communism mean?

Then I thought of something another friend once told me. This friend, named Henry, was a Catholic, a bathelor, and a conservative Democrat. It was in the days when Spiro Agnew, Nixon's first Vice President, was going about the country making speeches to shore up the morale of Republicans and to heap scorn and derision on Democrats. That was the principal duty of Vice Presidents in those days: bad-mouth the other Party. I was younger and less tolerant in those days, and one of my favorite descriptions of Spiro Agnew was that he was a lying bastard. Henry didn't comment on the legitimacy of Mr. Agnew, but he did say that the Vice President said things that he, Henry, liked to hear said.

And that may be the key to the question of whether Democrats are soft on terror and were soft on Communism. We Democrats didn't spend a lot of time and effort making speeches in which we damned the communists or terrorists to everlasting hell. The public then feared the communists and today fear the terrorists. There wasn't much either political Party could do in the old days about the communists except to keep the pressure on the Soviet Union and try to stamp out any indigenous reform movement anywhere in the world, and particularly in the Western Hemisphere, that dared to call itself "communist." But, by God, the Republicans sure lambasted the godless, cruel, inhuman, intolerant, etc., communists. We Democrats left the name-calling to the Republicans and concentrated our thoughts on how to prevent Americans from turning to the communists for help in achieving civil rights for all, decent living conditions for the poor, and so on. Our reward for not engaging in frequent and noisy communist-bashing was to be called "soft on communism."

Today the situation is similar. We Democrats know that our ability to combat terrorists in other countries is limited. We support and advocate efforts to root them out and bring them to some form of justice. We support improving the safety of our ports. We don't think it is worth while to make a big point of "talking tough" about terrorists. We have not learned from my friend Henry. Even though nothing very effective is actually being done to prevent another terrorist attack, the public likes to hear terrorists cursed and vilified by important elected officials. Thus, we are accused of being soft on terror.
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