Let me preface this by saying I am a big fan of Tom Daschle. Not only is he my U.S. Senator, he is the most honest and sincere politician I have ever met. (I have met plenty and found very few to be sincere and even fewer to be honest).
That said, it’s about time Tom started speaking up on Iraq. It was a pleasure to turn on NPR this evening and hear Daschle say: “If this is progress, I don’t know how much more progress we can take.’’ Daschle, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, also knows the subliminal meaning to many of us when he says there’s a “credibility gap.”
Why has Daschle been so low on the radar screen on this issue? I think there’s a couple reasons. Primarily, he may still be smarting from the firestorm when he had the guts to say at the beginning of the Iraq War that Bush “failed so miserably at diplomacy that we’re now forced to war.” You couldn’t pick up a South Dakota newspaper without seeing a letter to the editor basically accusing him of treason. Moreover, that may have been just the spin the right would put on any additional critical comments by Daschle on Iraq. Second, I think he’s allowing some of the Democractic presidential candidates to take the lead on beating this drum as a campaign issue. Finally, it is a sad but true fact that a majority of South Dakotans support Bush and his war (although hopefully that number is steadily decreasing). Daschle is up for reelection next year. While no Republican candidate has emerged, Daschle is clearly a national target.
From a political standpoint, Daschle faces greater risk than many other Dems by being forthright. Let’s just hope those risks don’t keep him from using his national position to take on the Bush spin. He doesn’t need to be point man on this issue but he certainly shouldn’t be on the sidelines.