WashingtonPost.com, by Fred Hiatt, April 3, 2006; A19
You can look at the Democrats' national security plan, released last week, as simply a political shield, akin to the upgraded body armor they promise for U.S. troops.
The party remains traumatized by the failure of biography to protect Vietnam veterans Max Cleland and John Kerry from charges of being soft on security.
So "Real Security" -- with its red, white and blue cover, its poll-tested phrases (policies that are "both tough and smart") printed in English and Spanish -- is an amulet for 2006 candidates: You see? We have a plan. We Democrats will buy more weaponry than the Bush administration, sign up more troops, give more to veterans, inspect more shipping containers.
But you can also look at the security plan as the Democrats say it is intended: as a serious strategy intended to show that the opposition party is ready to govern. Under that lens, it is a more interesting document.
The first thing you might notice is that the Democrats implicitly reject almost everything the Bush administration says about how Sept. 11 changed the world, or our perception of it....
The Democrats do indeed attack the failures and promise an end to incompetence. But they also reveal a different world view, one that is far more cramped and inward-looking. While reassuring voters that they will keep "foreign interests" out of "our national security infrastructure" -- including "mass transit" -- the Democrats do not find space to mention democracy even once....
The Democrats, led by Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), seem to have reverted to the it's-the-economy-stupid Clinton of 1992. A section of their plan focuses on alternative energy and conservation, for example, but the goal is only "to free America from dependence on foreign oil"; climate change isn't mentioned. Pandemics such as avian flu are to be combated by spending more on public health at home; the rest of the world doesn't figure in.
Throughout the plan, in fact, there is no discussion of values, of liberty or generosity, of free markets or foreign aid -- of any purpose for American leadership larger than self-protection. The pollsters may be satisfied, but John F. Kennedy would not recognize his party.