Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tom Daschle at Northwestern University

Last night, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a speech given by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. This post will be a recounting of his speech (paraphrasing only, no transcript), as well as my own thoughts and reactions to his comments.

On a sidenote: Before the speech began, a large section was left vacant, filled with signs saying "reserved seating." I asked a friend, "Why are so many seats empty? Does Daschle come with a huge entourage or something?" To which my friend responds, "Yeah, I bet he has this huge posse like MC Hammer."

And suddenly, the best moment of the evening was my vision of Tom Daschle walking up to the podium in a huge pair of shiny parachute pants.

In any event, the title of Daschle's speech was "The American Journey: New Paths and Opportunities in a Changing World." To be honest, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the event. Daschle is obviously a charismatic person, and some parts of the speech I found his statements to be good. Though he did have some criticisms of the government and the role of America in the world right now, some of his concerns were fair and justified.

Unfortunately, he couldn't hide partisan colors all night, and when certain issues came up, he was talking directly out of the liberal talking points/propaganda list.

The main point of the speech was the highlight the state of American foreign policy as juxtaposed with America's image in the world today. His image wasn’t entirely negative; he did mention some of the better roles of America in the world, and actually told a very inspiring story of meeting Hamid Karzai.

Apparently just after coming into power, he met with Karzai when the Afghan government was still small and struggling. However, despite the setbacks and limitations facing the new government, Karzai said that they were motivated by something greater than all of that: “We want to be like you.”

However, as Daschle pointed out, because America is such a beacon of hope, our failures and shame is even more visible to the world. This is a fair point, but I think that it actually works more towards the media that grabs onto any little event in an attempt to turn it into a scandal for the Bush administration; and it works towards the politicians (especially the Democrats) who take every opportunity to let partisan politics dictate the politically motivated stunts they pull in front of the eyes of the world.

I was glad that Daschle had the fortitude to say that there are people who want to attack America regardless of the example it sets for the world. I think that there are just too few Democrats these days who will admit that. Bin Laden was bombing our soldiers even when Clinton was in office; Paris burns with the flames of Islamic radicalism at this very moment (Update: Apparently Dafydd ab Hugh is skeptical of this), despite their opposition to the Iraq War and support of Palestinian violence.

Of course, his solutions to such problems seem simplistic and naïve. At one point, he said that we should go after Bin Laden, regardless of the feathers we ruffle in doing so. While I’m not intimately familiar with the military intelligence on Bin Laden’s whereabouts or strategies on apprehending him, I can guess that most military commanders would not recommend sending 10,000 marines across the Pakistani border in search of Bin Laden. As much as we may want him, Pakistan has been a somewhat helpful ally in the war on terror, and there is no need to tick off a nuclear power just yet. If we find that the government is willfully hiding him, then we’ll talk about that option.

The topic of Iraq would inevitably come up. Daschle accused the President of misusing intelligence, failing to plan for the aftermath of the war, and being dishonest with the American people over the commitment this war would require. He said we need to get politics out of the intelligence community.

On the last point, I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately for Daschle, Joe Wilson currently makes that point for him, but in the opposite direction from where he wants to take it. Additionally, since the Senate Intelligence Committee found that prewar intelligence was not manipulated by the Bush administration and none of it was altered due to administration pressure, Daschle’s talking points come off as dishonest.

The most important part of the speech, I suppose, was the soon to be released plan Daschle will help present as to the future of the troops in Iraq. He calls it, “Strategic Redeployment.” In short, the plan calls for a draw down of 80,000 troops from Iraq beginning in January; this would include all of the guard and reserve forces, who would be completely out by the end of 2006. Twenty thousand of these troops would be sent to Afghanistan to help the fighting there, stop the flow of drugs out of the country, and to find Bin Laden. Finally, the remaining 70,000 troops in Iraq would be augmented by international support and would be completely absent from Iraq by the end of 2007.

Again, Daschle’s plans strike me as being naïve. The problems of Afghanistan aren’t about a lack of troops. In fact, a large contingent of troops like that entering the region could make things there even more difficult. Daschle constantly complained that America has become isolated in the world (a strange thing to say when he mentioned several times how much good work the US is doing in the world, how “responsive” it is to global problems), and yet he wants an international coalition of troops in Iraq? Don’t we have that already? Oh, right; Daschle doesn’t think that the contributions of nation such as England, Poland, Albania, or Japan “count.” They’re not really international support. I didn’t get to ask him a question, but if I could have, it would have been, “Who are we lacking in our so-disdained ‘coalition of the willing’?”

Furthermore, Daschle commented that we should allow Iraq to decide its own destiny. Again, I’m well in agreement with this. That’s why we freed the country, and that’s why we still have troops there. Or didn’t you realize that the democratically elected government has desperately requested that troops remain in Iraq for a few more years?

Those were the most important aspects of the speech. A few other highlights included the question and answer session, where a few predictable liberal canards came out. My favorite questions included a man asking, “Why don’t we turn Iraq over to the UN and use the oil proceeds to feed the world the way we should have done with Kuwait?” and a woman commenting that the media doesn’t cover anti-Bush, anti-War rallies and demonstrations. Yeah, because we heard nothing in the news about the 2000th death of a soldier or anything.

My favorite responses of his to questions included his statement that, after hearing from Harry Reid about his invocation of “Rule 21,” that he would have done the very same thing if he were there now (Thank you, Senator Thune). Also, he mentioned that the nomination of Alito to the SCOTUS has left him very concerned, as he is obviously a man who will take the court out of the mainstream (i.e. the liberal framework) and take it far, far to the right.

All in all, it was an interesting speech. I’m glad I was able to attend, but former Senator Daschle demonstrated that, once again, there is absolutely nothing that cannot be overcome by petty, partisan politics.

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