Bobbing for War

Florida's senator should get out before he gets in

John Edwards has all the gravitas of John Boy and is almost as proven as a national leader.

John Kerry has no presidential legs, but he's got effete.

Joe Lieberman combines chronic charisma deficiency with a serious identity problem -- is he Democrat, Republican, or Likudnik?

And Dick Gephardt... well, who the hell cares about Dick Gephardt?

These aren't so much Dems as they are Dims. You know it's bad when Gary Hart is talking about a comeback. Next they'll be dusting off Walter Mondale (again) and putting the Army helmet back on Michael Dukakis.

But what about Bob?

Florida Sen. Bob Graham has all but announced that he'll run in 2004. The 66-year-old's decision has been delayed by heart surgery scheduled for next week, but after that, he'll likely jump into the primaries. His popularity in the Sunshine State alone makes him an interesting candidate. For a moment there, I thought he might be the answer. But in this grim new age, one simply doesn't go on hunches or whims. No, voters have more at stake now that barbarians aren't just at our gate but also in the Oval Office.

Graham, unfortunately, is one of them. Rather than being billed as the raving hawk that he is, Graham has been cast in the national media as an alternative to Bush and the war machine. That misconception comes courtesy of the senator's vote against authorizing George the Younger to bomb Iraq back in October. But his reasoning would make Napoleon blush: Graham said the resolution was too weak and should have given Dubya the power to destroy camps in Syria, Iran, and other Arab countries. His amendment to expand Bush's bombing power was crushed 88-10.

But few have paid any attention to Graham's martial bent. The Nation, that liberal tome, encouraged him just this week "to fashion a critique that exposes the true costs of imperial ambitions."

Note to left-wing establishment: That ain't Bob, babe.

A President Graham would be a scary proposition indeed, and not because of his weird habit of penning the most mundane details in his daily journals but rather his yenning to attack other countries. One can only imagine the former Florida governor's journal entries if he were to become commander in chief. Something like:

8:15 a.m.: Wake up in White House.

8:30: Eat breakfast. Raisin Bran and prune juice.

9 to 9:30 a.m.: Morning constitutional. Best thinking done all week.

9:15 to noon: Bomb Syria and Iran. Overall successful, except for accidental strike on Koran factory. Oops!

12:30 to 1 p.m.: Lunch. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Elvis lives.

1:15: Watch Jim Carrey's Man on the Moon. Loved parts where Jim wrestles women and Jerry "The King" Lawler royally kicks his ass.

3:00: Get briefing on recent terrorist attack in Topeka, Kansas. Fifth one on American soil this week. Why do they hate us freedom-loving people so much? Ain't right.

3:15-3:30: Rewind Jim Carrey's Man on the Moon. Watch wrestling parts backwards. Ha ha.

4 to 6: Get update on bombing of leftist guerrillas in Colombian mountains. Scan reports of government human rights abuses and paramilitary atrocities. The price of freedom is high, I've found, but must eradicate coca and communists.

6:15: Realize it's getting personal with France. Parlez vous bombez?

Though it's not talked about much, Graham's predilection for military action is apparent, especially in Colombia, a brewing disaster that has been all but forgotten in the hoopla over Hussein. Leftist guerrillas under the banner of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known by its Spanish acronym FARC) are taking over the countryside and blowing up things as they fight for land reform and redistribution of wealth. Right-wing paramilitaries are trying to kill the leftists and have committed various atrocities against innocent civilians in the process. The paramilitary groups have strong ties to the Colombian military, which itself is monumentally corrupt and guilty of human rights abuses. Cocaine money helps to fuel the whole horror show.

In recent years, the United States has stepped knee-deep into this quagmire. Much of the $2.2 billion given to Colombia during the past three years has gone to a coca plant eradication program that is poisoning the countryside, killing legal crops, and making peasants sick. It's not working: Colombia is producing as much cocaine as ever. But that hasn't caused Bush (or Clinton before him) to stop the practice. Instead, our involvement is escalating. Two weeks ago, 60 U.S. Special Forces were sent there to guard an oil pipeline and train the Colombian military -- the result an additional $100 million in spending approved by Congress.

So Iraq isn't the only war for oil in the works. Military advisers from the U.S. Southern Command are on the ground, along with hundreds of U.S. soldiers, civilian contractors, and loads of military equipment, including several Black Hawk helicopters. The policy is shifting from killing coca to fighting the leftists.

Some Democrats in Congress have tried to thwart the Bush administration's efforts. In October 2001, they struck $160 million from the Colombian package. Only one senator made a motion to put the money back in the aid package, and he wasn't a Republican. It was Bob Graham.

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