If Democrats Only Had Some Courage

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the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

If Democrats Only Had Some Courage

Washington -- It's about time that the "me too" Democrats, particularly those in Congress who vote with the Republicans so often, stand up and be counted.

Too many Democrats are tiptoeing around the major issues facing our nation, afraid to venture out of the mainstream. This is a big mistake at a time when the nation is begging for true leadership.

Democrats with the courage to be leaders could have a field day pointing out that millions of Americans lack health insurance and that 37 million have fallen below the poverty line. Soon they will no longer be able to claim that theirs is a caring political party because they won't have evidence that this is true.

Take, for example, the case of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Instead of endorsing universal health care -- a topic that she knows a lot about -- Clinton is busy co-sponsoring with Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, a law to bar desecration of the flag. Has anyone burned a flag lately?

Clinton is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, which might explain why she's busy pandering to conservatives instead of staking out a leadership role on more important issues.

The Democrats' lack of political courage has left voters with the choice of Republicans who call themselves that -- and Republicans who call themselves Democrats. The result: The GOP gets a free ride.

President Bush has been weakened this year and the allegations of corruption among GOP leadership have hurt the party.

Democrats have a golden opportunity to hammer away at the mistakes made by the Bush administration and to support Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who has made a dramatic and courageous call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within six months.

Murtha's House and Senate colleagues should rush to embrace him. Instead, many of them have scattered to the winds, carefully parsing out distinctions that they claim prove that they're not like Murtha. The Pennsylvania Democrat is a newly minted dove. He was in the Marine Corps for 37 years and had such close ties to the Pentagon brass that some believe he is speaking for many of them in his call to end the war in Iraq.

Murtha argues that we will confront less terrorism if the United States ends its occupation of Iraq. He also frets that the U.S. military will be caught in an Iraqi civil war if it stays behind.

To the alarm of the right-leaning Democrats, Murtha has been joined by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has endorsed his plan for a pullout from Iraq within six months. But most House Democrats are taking their marching orders from Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., the second-ranking House Democratic leader, who believe in a go-slow strategy.

It was sad to see Emanuel and his cohorts fail to endorse Murtha. Despite the realization that Congress was sold a bill of goods in endorsing the war, the Emanuel-led Democrats fled when Murtha took a strong stand.

They also put a damper on Howard Dean after he said on Monday that "the idea we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Dean was advocating the United States "should cut and run and retreat."

Dean changed his tune on Thursday and proposed a "strategic redeployment" of the 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq over two years. It's possible to imagine the twist marks on his arms, left there by timid Democrats.

On the domestic side, the Democrats should put on a well-lighted marquee the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress plans to save $50 billion over five years by cutting food stamps, student loans and by slapping new fees on Medicaid recipients and reducing child support enforcement. So much for compassionate conservativism.

At the same time, the House on Thursday passed tax cuts totaling $95 billion, sending a clear message that the budget deficits will continue to grow.

The Democrats should learn from the Cowardly Lion's story in the "The Wizard of Oz." The King of Beasts wanted courage and lamented:

"Life is sad, believe me Missy,

"When you're born to be a sissy

"Without the vim and verve."

There's still time for a courage transplant before the next elections.

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas was an American author and former news service reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and columnist. She worked for the United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, first as a correspondent, and later as White House bureau chief. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. Among other books she was the author of Front Row at The White House: My Life and Times. Helen passed away on July 20, 2013.

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