Following is an advance release of Ed Koch's Bloomberg Radio Commentary for Nov. 16.
Democrats have obviously suffered an enormous defeat at the hands of President George W. Bush, but in addition to punching out the Democratic Party, the president also handed a tremendous loss to Senator Ted Kennedy and the so-called anti-globalization movement which opposes any war against Iraq.
I’ve always believed that you must not let opponents falsely describe themselves with positive words while saddling you with negative words and images. So in discussing the probable war to come against Iraq, I’ve always maintained that the best way to keep peace is to remove despots and other supporters of terrorism from power.
Those who oppose the death penalty for criminals who have been found guilty of egregious murder and a jury finds no mitigating circumstances that would cause them not to impose the death penalty, often call supporters of the death penalty reactionaries. I reply that I support the death penalty because I want to protect society and that they are the real reactionaries, turning their backs on society.
From the beginning, I have defended President Bush against the unfair attacks made upon him by so many in the so-called peace effort led by Kennedy and supported by near half of the Senate Democrats who voted against Bush’s requested resolution for Senate authorization to wage war against Iraq if it did not destroy its weapons of mass destruction and allow unfettered access to U.N. inspectors. Over the last several months, Bush campaigned for his candidates by stating that he would do all he could to obtain U.N. support for action against Iraq. But if the U.N. — like the League of Nations before it which was unwilling to oppose Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia — refused to compel Iraq to abide by the agreement it signed at the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. with its British ally and other like-minded countries would do the job themselves.
Large numbers of Democrats, many of whom had opposed the Gulf War in 1991 with no Democratic Senator from a state above the Mason-Dixon line except Joe Lieberman from Connecticut voting for it, again voted no in 2002. In the historic week of November 3rd, President Bush saw the U.N. bend to his will and vote unanimously for a resolution which threatens war if Iraq does not destroy its weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and British sponsored resolution allows the sponsors to take appropriate military action after a discussion at the U.N. without the need of another vote to enforce the U.N. resolution if flouted by Iraq.
The same brilliant and successful campaigning occurred in our domestic election held that same week. The Democrats had no national strategy on domestic issues that set them apart from the Republicans. They needed to set forth Democratic values and goals in a Democratic version of the “Contract with America” that Newt Gingrich provided for Republicans in 1994.
Democrats should have demanded a roll back of the Bush inequitable tax program, which over the next 10 years will give 37.6 percent of the $1.3 trillion in tax reductions to the top one percent of taxpayers. They should have called for a comprehensive national medical insurance program with prescription drug coverage that will cover the current 40 million of uninsured Americans, many of whom are working full-time. They should have developed a program for reducing the national debt and insuring the continuation of Social Security for baby boomers. But nowhere in the land was there heard a comprehensive Democratic program for the future. What was heard on national television were the screaming fanatics at the Wellstone memorial service who insulted everyone, except those they saw as “true believers.”
Now the Democratic Party will choose a new parliamentary leader to replace Dick Gephardt. The frontrunner is Nancy Pelosi, who is in the left wing of the party. She is supported by radical Democrats such as Congressman John Conyers, who recently urged her candidacy over Congressman Harold E. Ford, Jr., a moderate. If she moves the party further to the radical left and undoes everything that President Clinton did to move the party to center left, the Democratic Party will truly be undone.
Pelosi should be asked, among a dozen more questions separating moderates from radicals, “do you believe you were right in voting against the welfare reform bill?” and “do you believe you were right in voting against the joint resolution authorizing military action against Iraq?”
God bless America and God help the Democratic Party to recover its place of leadership in the U.S., providing it deserves that help.
Ed Koch is the former mayor of New York City