The Jackass Whimpers

Bush's war has sent the Democratic Party scurrying for cover

Democratic volunteer Donna Todd, who was the only DEC member to show up at the Sunrise rally, says she's fed up with her party's gutless wonders. "Democrats have no guts," she complained. "Alcee is the only one with guts, and he's the only one I trust, the only one."

Todd was especially upset at Wexler, whose usually loud mouth has been pretty quiet about Iraq -- unless it's in support of the invasion. "When we interviewed him at the DEC, the only issue he could talk coherently about was Israel," Todd relayed. "The only thing he cares about is Israel, and Deutsch is probably the same way."

Therein lies a sticky little problem facing the Democratic Party -- it is torn between its religious Zionist wing and its most liberal members, many of whom sympathize with Palestinians. Though Deutsch and Wexler are both toeing the Sharon line, Broward's large Jewish community is far from united on the issue. The Sunrise rally, in fact, was organized by Paul Lefrak, who is Jewish and heads the growing Broward Antiwar Coalition. Lefrak wore a T-shirt with the words "Remember Jenin" on it, referring to the alleged massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli Defense Forces last year.

The shirt miffed Murray Hirsh, a Jewish Democratic organizer who lives in the politically influential Century Village community for senior citizens in Pembroke Pines. Hirsh doesn't believe there was a massacre in Jenin. He says he considered confronting Lefrak about it at the rally but decided against it. The 78-year-old World War II veteran has a war to fight, after all. This past Saturday, he led a "Seniors for Peace" rally in Pembroke Pines attended by more than 100 people, none of them elected officials. He invited numerous elected officials, but none attended.

Hirsh, who serves as treasurer for the Pembroke Pines/Miramar Democratic Club, says his strong antiwar views have stirred up conflict with some of his own friends and relatives. He says he would never vote for the hawkish Lieberman. "There is a dilemma there in the Jewish community," Hirsh says. "The leaders of Israel are very hawkish and are pushing for this war. The Jewish community here is split."

But he feels no ambivalence: "Do you know why I'm fighting against this war? Because I have three children and six grandchildren, and I would hate to die and leave the world in this freakin' mess that it is in without trying to do something about it."

Hirsh is getting used to being disappointed with his party. Of the Democratic rollover on the Bush war resolution, Hirsh says: "I felt hurt. I felt wounded. I felt disturbed. I don't know what the right adjective is. I felt there was no comprehension of what Bush's real motives were."

Even before that fateful vote, Hirsh had already quit the DEC over a related debacle, the party's backing of middle-of-the-road nincompoop Bill McBride over Janet Reno in the Florida gubernatorial race. "My loyalty is being worn away," he says. "So I've decided to be a thorn in their side. I keep needling them. I could never vote Republican, so I can't leave them altogether."

Therein lies the hope for salvation for the Democrats, whose cowardice has already cost them the U.S. Senate. The antiwar crowd might suppress its gag reflex and vote for the Democratic nominee just to send the hated Bush back to Crawford for good. The Democrats, though, need to take some lessons from the president, who gives lip service to the center ("compassionate conservatism," hydrogen cars, and that tripe about "leaving no child behind") but really serves the far right wing. He learned well from his father's mistakes, after George the First lost touch with his Republican base on his way to losing the 1992 election.

When that protester said the Green Party gave her hope, she wasn't talking about political victory; she was talking about right and wrong. She senses that the Democratic Party is operating out of fear -- of Bush, of a bloodthirsty post-9/11 populace, of its own pro-Israel wing. When you're fighting a radical like Bush -- and he is a radical -- the political center is a graveyard. It's like taking a potato peeler to a Mexican knife fight. The Democratic Party hasn't learned that yet, and that's why it has so far managed only to pave the way for this president and his dirty war.

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