September 30, 2004

Kerry's Rickety Coalition

Peter Beinart
analyzes Kerry's dithering on Iraq as a function of the disunity on the issue among the Democrats:

"But if Iraq is the biggest single issue, then Kerry has by far the harder task. And that's because the same question that has bedeviled Kerry for two years haunts him still: What's his position on Iraq? And while it's true that Kerry himself is a natural bloviator who would never say in 10 crisp words what he could say in a soggy 100, there's a logic to his wind-sockery on the Iraq question. That is, he has three different constituencies in the Democratic Party that he needs to please, and the best way to please them, he figures, is to unspool yards of yarn every time he talks about Iraq.

"The first group within his coalition are the outright hawks, such as Sen. Joe Lieberman. By now, the Connecticut Democrat is mostly a closet Republican, but because of his national standing, any criticism he might utter of Kerry would be wounding indeed. And so Kerry must keep him and like-minded Democratic neoconservatives on the reservation.

"The second group in the Kerry Kamp are the doves, who include such prominent figures as Sen. Teddy Kennedy and former Vice President Al Gore. These folks, who see Iraq as another Vietnam, represent the base of the Democratic Party.

"The third group are those in between, who support the war but insist at the same time that Bush has mishandled it. This group includes Sen. Joe Biden and most senior Democrats in Congress, as well as, oftentimes, Kerry himself. Many in this group express deep doubts about Iraq - but only privately. "

A leader at least must seem to cut through diverse views. Kerry has a problem, but he sure hasn't solved it.

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