DECEMBER 14, 2003 – Just a little
over a week ago, we at The Moderate Independent made the following
comment with regard to the campaigns the Democratic political
hopefuls were running:
"The Lieberman campaign truly has the
most winning focus of any campaign. Its relentless focus is on
“integrity.” The other campaigns are potentially setting
themselves up for a dangerous fall with their focuses on the Iraq
situation and the economy. What if the economy turns around
and Saddam is caught in October? The other camps seem to make
the case that, well, then maybe we were wrong and the President
should stay. Lieberman, on the other hand, makes clear that,
“It is the lack of integrity, stupid.” Even if the economy was
perfect and the country at peace, President Bush needs to go, his
line of attack says, because he lacks proper moral values and basic
integrity (read honesty.)" (see article:
Well, now the moment we all knew might
happened has. Remember those comments during the debate by
several of the candidates, "(President Bush) hasn't been able to
find Saddam, he hasn't been able to find Osama," always followed by
a cute joke, like that they wouldn't want him being in charge of
finding missing persons?
Saddam is captured, and, of course, each
would-be President must give his piece about it. How are they
responding and how will today's event affect each campaign?
Dick Gephardt gets to gloat a bit:
"I supported this effort in Iraq without regard for the political
consequences because it was the right thing to do. I still feel that
way now and today is a major step toward stabilizing Iraq and
building a new democracy.
"For many years, we will be confronted with a war on terrorism that
is unfinished. This will be a long and difficult struggle and we
need a president who has the credibility to unite the American
people and our allies in an effort to make our nation and our world
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) found himself
in the position of not only having to issue a statement, but to sit
through a previously scheduled appearance on, of all places, FOX
News Sunday. How did the Senator handle it? He stressed
the "opportunity" of this moment, setting up, in effect, a direct
challenge to the President.
"This is a great opportunity for this
President to get it right for the long term. I hope he
will.... use this as a moment to transform the entire operation in
Iraq," by reaching out to the UN and the rest of the world... I
always knew we wanted to get rid of Saddam... but I wanted to do it
right. I still believe the challenges of Iraq, the challenges
of the transformation, the $87 billion that Americans are being
asked to pay, the targeting of American soldiers who are being lost
daily or weekly... I think you could transform this effort... and
begin a major transformation of the War on Terror."
He added that, "This administration now
has its 4th major opportunity," to internationalize this effort, and
that he hoped the President would get it right this time.
He also took a chance to take a swipe at
Howard Dean, saying, "Howard Dean... said that foreign policy is
about tone and about nuance. Well if it's... about nuance,
Howard Dean is the man who called terrorists, Hamas, soldiers.
Howard Dean is the man who said we shouldn't be thinking about
military action against Iraq, we should be thinking about military
action against North Korea, which I found astounding. Howard
Dean is the man who said we don't take sides in the Middle East;
well we took sides... with Israel in 1948... I don't think Howard
Dean has... ever showed the kind of thoughtfulness about Saddam
Hussein and how we deal with Iraq necessary for a President of the
Howard Dean took a similar tact, but
couldn't claim he knew knew we wanted to get rid of Saddam, as Kerry
"This development provides an enormous
opportunity to set a new course and take the American label off the
war. We must do everything possible to bring the UN, NATO, and other
members of the international community back into this effort.
Now that the dictator is captured, we must also accelerate the
transition from occupation to full Iraqi sovereignty."
Senator John Edwards (D-NC) must have
had the same speech writer: "Our military leaders have
accomplished a great success. I hope President Bush will use this
opportunity to chart a course in Iraq that will bring in our allies
in a meaningful way to achieve a democratic and peaceful Iraq."
Yes, Kucinich had the same speech writer
as well, but did sound a slightly different note, essentially saying
that, well, now we're done there, let's go home.
"With the capture of Saddam Hussein the
Administration's stated goal of removing him from power has been
accomplished. Now the focus must be on ending the occupation.
International law must be followed and Saddam Hussein must be held
accountable for his actions... The United States must reach out to
the world community with a new plan to stabilize Iraq, bring UN
peacekeepers in, and bring US troops home."
General Wesley Clark was over in the
Hague, about to testify against the horrible dictator he led the
fight to bring down, Milosevic. What a perfect backdrop for
him, highlighting his strong leadership in similarly bringing down
and holding accountable a man at least as brutal as Saddam.
He issued a brief and completely
non-partisan statement: "I could not be prouder of the men and
women of the U.S. Armed Forces for capturing this horrible despot.
This is a testament to their courage and determination. I'd also
like to congratulate Lt. General Sanchez and the intelligence
community for the crucial role they played. We've been due good news
from Iraq and the world is a safer and better place now that he is
As for Lieberman, he was also on TV this
morning, on NBC's Meet The Press. Already gaining sympathy
support this week over Al Gore's mannerless dissing, Lieberman did
not restrain his joy at this success for the US military.
"(My) first reaction this morning when I
was informed (was) "Hallelujah, praise the Lord." I mean, this is
something that I have been working on with a lot of other people,
advocating and praying for for more than 12 years since the Gulf War
of '91. This man was a homicidal maniac, a brutal dictator, wanted
to dominate the Arab world and was supporting terrorists. He caused
the deaths of more than a million people, including now 460
Americans who went to overthrow him. So this is a day of glory for
the American military, American intelligence and it's a day of
triumph and joy for anybody in the world who cares about freedom and
human rights and peace."
He broke sharply with General Clark and
some of the other candidates, who have said that Saddam, if
captured, should be tried in by the international court at the
Hague. He, quite plainly, just wants to make sure Saddam
Hussein ends up dead.
"The International Tribunal in The Hague
cannot order the death penalty. So my first question about where
he's going to be tried will be answered by whether that tribunal can
execute him, which is what he surely deserves, and if it can be done
by the Iraqi military tribunal, fine. But if it cannot, he should
be brought before an American military tribunal and face the death
that he's brought to hundreds of thousands of his own people and
He was then asked first if he thought
Saddam's capture hurt the chances of Howard Dean.
"Well, in my opinion, they should.
Because, let me say it again, if Howard Dean had his way, today,
Saddam Hussein would still be in power, not in prison, and the world
would be a much more dangerous place for the American people, and a
terrible place for the people of Iraq."
And with regard to President Bush,
Lieberman echoed the sentiment we had reported last week.
"This is a day of triumph and joy, and
it's a day of honoring those who we now can say, those Americans,
who didn't die in vain in fighting Saddam Hussein and overthrowing
him. But Lord knows, there's a lot of things I disagree with George
Bush about, that says America needs a fresh start. The economy is
in trouble, health-care crisis, education costs rising out of
control, Social Security being ransacked. The fact is we need
somebody who will not only be strong in the world but reconnect with
our allies and create genuine security and get America going here at
home. I'm that candidate, strong on defense, strong on growth,
socially progressive. We need a fresh start."
And it is true that only Joe can say he
was essentially Bush's twin with regard to the war in Iraq.
Neither Mosely Braun nor Sharpton issued
statements as of the time this article was written - I guess they
only remember they are Presidential candidates when there is a
televised debate to get PR from.
So how does this affect the Presidential
race? There are two absolutes.
First, Saddam being captured now is
really a big plus to the Democratic Party. The worst case
scenario would have been if he was captured in October - especially
with Howard Dean as the nominee. There could have been
numerous more debates with the Democrats chiding the President for
not finding Saddam, directly with the President standing beside
them. With the capture happening 11 months before the
election, there won't be that last minute surprise that would have
given President Bush a huge boost right before election time.
The second major factor, though, is that
President Bush and his cynical campaign machine will undoubtedly
draw this out and schedule it - as they did with the timing of the
war to begin with - so that Saddam's trial and further developments
highlighting this capture occur just at the perfect moments for his
campaign. If you thought he was happy to have that fake turkey
to use as a campaign prop, wait until how you see his new favorite
campaign Ken Doll, Saddam Hussein, toted around.
This won't just be used to make him look
good, but to suck the media "air" away from the rest of the
Democratic hopefuls. Whoever the Democratic candidate turns
out to be, the public will have to feel they get to know him
adequately before they are comfortable voting for him. And
with the Bush machine sure to keep the airwaves occupied with a
carefully planned rolling out of Saddam-related events, it is much
more likely the Democratic contender will simply not ever be able to
get his name and message out there adequately enough to even be
But, of course, the reality is there are
11 months until the election. Just as we said last week,
anyone who runs a campaign against situations is setting themselves
up for a huge fall. The war in Iraq could wind down now or
stay just as bloody. The War on Terrorism, North Korea, all
sorts of situations are unpredictable.
So while it can be surmised that
Lieberman might benefit, that Clark, Gephardt, Edwards, and Kerry
come out better than Dean, or that President Bush comes out smelling
rosy and unbeatable, in reality, all of the above commentaries will
become irrelevant by the time the election nears. The nation
can only wait and see whether this is a panacea for Iraq or if the
situation there deteriorates into warring Muslim factions.
However, as of today, on Senator
Lieberman can stay on message: that the issue is the
President's lack of integrity, environmental, and economic policies.
All the others need to completely recalculate and refocus, leaving
Joe alone with a huge advantage over his rivals over at least the
next few weeks.