A liberal hawk’s dilemma

I’ve been following some of the discussion in the blogosphere among Iraq-war-supporting US leftists and liberals about whether they can bring themselves to vote for George W. Bush next year. One of the most thoughtful and provocative of them is Cara from the Who Knew blog (who posts some of Dr. Seuss’s powerful anti-Nazi cartoons from World War II). She writes of the Democratic candidates for President in 2004:

Unless the delusions of the far “left” stop infecting these candidates, unless they stop hallucinating that Iraq is Vietnam, unless they get off the opportunists bus they’re riding on, unless they see that the (party) problems of nine little candidates don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, and if the election were held today, even though I disagree with Bush domestically, I would have to vote for George W. Bush. No contest.

Here’s where I break with Cara. Anyone who has followed my posts at Harry’s Place knows I’ve had very little good to say about Bush, especially when it comes to issues of workers’ rights and economic justice. I can’t just shrug off my “disagreements.” Bush, despite his convincing “regular guy” routine, stands as a matter of policy against the interests of regular people and for the interests of the wealthiest. (For those interested in a partial list of examples, the AFL-CIO has been keeping score.) As much as I supported the ouster of Saddam Hussein, and as much as I give Bush credit for seeing it through, I just can’t give him a free pass on everything else.

So unlike Cara, I cannot envision voting for Bush next year. And I don’t share her indiscriminate take on the nine Democrats running for President. If the Democratic candidate is Dick Gephardt, John Edwards or Joe Lieberman– each of whom supported and still supports the ouster of Saddam while being rightly critical of Bush’s failures– I won’t have a problem deciding whom to vote for.

However if Howard Dean, Wesley Clark or John Kerry is the Democratic nominee, I will have a problem. And especially with Dean. His offhand comment about the fall of Saddam Hussein last April– “I suppose that’s a good thing”– still rankles. So does his recent opportunistic take on the downing of a US helicopter in Iraq that killed 16 soldiers: “It weakens the position of the president and my Democratic opponents,” said Dean. “There are now almost 400 people dead who wouldn’t be dead if that resolution hadn’t been passed and we hadn’t gone to war.” The short-sightedness and the disregard for the Iraqi victims of Saddam implied by those words are, in my view, anything but liberal.

It is, in other words, entirely possible that I will not vote in the 2004 election for President. Which would please me not at all.