You are viewing the Wednesday, July 28, 2004 edition. Click here to view today's edition.
Orange County's best source for local information Wednesday
July 28, 2004
COAST: 70 ° Forecast Ocean
INLAND: 80 ° Traffic Surf
CUSTOMER SERVICE OC Car Finder OC Job Finder OC Real Estate Finder
Browse past 7 days
Advanced search
Car | Job | Home | More
> Place an ad
 • Newspaper ads
 • Coupons
 • Buy our photos
 The print edition online
 Weekly newspapers
Community news
Noticias en Espaņol
Interactive tools
Discussion boards
Financial tools
Get a map
Get directions
Make this my
home page
Movie times
Place a classified ad
Puzzles & games
Yellow pages
About us
Advertise with us
Contact us
Customer service
Register in education
Site feedback
Subscribe today
Media partners

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

We could use a bit of 1968
Anti-war Democrats take it on faith and faith alone that Kerry's with them

Join Chris for a live discussion today (July 28) at noon Pacific.
Complete Election 2004 coverage

Columns editor, The Orange County Register

BOSTON - Given that 1968 was among the most tumultuous years in American history, it may seem perverse to long for a little bit of that '68 spirit. But watching the defanged Democratic National Convention this week makes one nostalgic for the passionate dissent of '68, if not its bloodshed.

Both then and now, Democrats convened after the public had turned against a once-popular war and grown skeptical that it was crucial to America's most pressing national interests.

In early 1968, after years of promises from Democratic President Lyndon Johnson that a U.S. victory over North Vietnam was inevitable, Hanoi's Tet Offensive - a military disaster but a propaganda bonanza - convinced millions of Americans that just wasn't true. In March of that year, a Gallup poll showed war opponents outnumbered supporters for the first time. By the time the Democratic convention convened in Chicago in August, it was plain that the American public had lost faith in President Johnson's assertion that Vietnam was crucial to the United States' epochal struggle against communism.

This year, a parallel milestone came in late June, when a Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, most Americans thought the war in Iraq was a mistake. The same poll showed that most people no longer believed President Bush's assertion that the conquest of Iraq was crucial to the United States' epochal struggle against Islamic terrorism.

In 1968, the nation's divisions over Vietnam yielded a Democratic convention that was more like a national convulsion than a party get-together, with bloody riots outside the convention hall and angry, downbeat rhetoric inside. The

fallout dominated politics for years to come.

By contrast, this year, if the Kerry blueprint prevails, we will have little more than four days of pabulum. Tens of millions of Americans may want to bring home our troops in a hurry, but the nation's divisions over Iraq are barely being discussed inside the convention hall.

Meanwhile, a quarter-mile away, thousands of protesters wave their signs and wonder how it's possible that both major-party candidates are pro-war in a nation where half the people think the war is crazy.

"What Bush has done in Iraq is a tragedy, and it has been right from the beginning," said Walter Ducharme, 75, of Cambridge, Mass., a retired manager of a program for the handicapped.

"I mean, we went over there and we destroyed that country," said Helena Melone, 37, a musician from Portsmouth, N.H.

But inside the Fleet Center, even though a New York Times survey showed 90 percent of Democratic delegates to be against the war, every last speech is tailored to win over the 10 percent or 15 percent of voters who are wavering on Bush. No one offers any specific alternatives to his Iraq policy.

Delegates understand the strategy. But the more candid ones admit that they don't like it - and they're worried that we could end up with a Democratic president whose Iraq stand is mostly different from Bush's on style, not substance.

"If [Kerry's] elected and doesn't make big changes, we will have been betrayed," says Vincent Lavery, 68, a Democratic delegate from Fresno.

That's a far bigger "if" than most people realize. The frontrunner to be secretary of state in a Kerry administration is Richard Holbrooke, the diplomat who was the Clinton administration's most enthusiastic advocate of both U.S. military power and U.S. nation-building. Holbrooke is the man who promised U.S. troops would be out of Bosnia by June 1998. We're still mired in Bosnia, with no end in sight. Sound familiar?

Holbrooke is no neocon, with grand schemes to remake the Middle East and the world. But he is absolutely the sort of policy-maker who likes dispatching the U.S. military on missions around the world that have little if anything to do with America's safety and security. And this is the man Kerry would have define our Iraq policy?

Maybe John Kerry would be far different than George Bush when it comes to Iraq. But the people who believe that do so as a matter of faith - not because of anything that's actually come out of his mouth.

Copyright 2004 The Orange County Register | Privacy policy | User agreement
Freedom communications Freedom Communications, Inc.