The Democrats unveiled their party platform for "Real Security" to great fanfare today. But I'm not sure I'd be crowing about this plan.
First, the good:
Action item Number One is to "eliminate" Osama Bin Laden. This puts Enemy Number One back on the front burner, and does so in language that smartly bridges the gap between those who want bin Laden captured and those who want him dead.
The plan also capitalizes on the woeful 9/11 report card, the Dubai ports deal, and Hurricane Katrina to highlight the grave homeland security shortcomings of Republican rule. It promises to "immediately implement the recommendations of the independent bipartisan 9/11 Commission and finally protect our ports and airports, our borders, mass transit systems, our chemical and nuclear power plants, and our food and water supplies from terrorist attack."
Additionally, the Democrats' plan offers some decent (if predictable) policy proposals, including a new GI Bill of Rights (ensuring better physical and mental healthcare for all troops), a doubling of our Special Forces, and an new initiative to secure loose nuclear materials.
Now the bad:
The bulk of this plan is not a plan. It's not even a vision. It's pap. Check out this collection of wishful thinking:
Destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda... Eliminate terrorist breeding grounds by combating the economic, social, and political conditions that allow extremism to thrive.... Insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency...Achieve energy independence for America by 2020 by eliminating reliance on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions of the world.
While we're at it, I've always wanted a pony.
Where the plan ventures into more detail, the pabulum paradoxically gets even more watered down. Take Iraq:
To Honor the Sacrifice of Our Troops, we will: Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.
"Significant Year of Transition"? Where are the benchmarks, where are the metrics, where are the dates? Are we going to have permanent bases? Do we need to train the Iraqi army before we leave? The Democrats' plan is essentially meaningless. How any of it differs from the Bush administration's "Victory" plan is painfully unclear. The language also seems achingly out of date — addressing the post-election reality of Iraq last December, not the pre-civil war Mess-o-potamia we've got on our hands now.
And here's the worst of the Democratic platform:
To read this document you'd think Halliburton and Exxon/Mobil were a greater threat than Iran and North Korea. The document inveighs repeatedly against "contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars" and "lucrative no-bid contracts [that] have gone to companies such as Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root, and others with friends in high places and records of cheating taxpayers," and "an energy policy that benefits the big oil interests."
The war profiteering of these companies is clearly an outrage. But it's not a threshold national security issue. As for nuclear armed mullahs — everyone's security nightmare — the report has a single line, promising to "Redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea."
To quote an immortal Dennis Miller line: "Folks, two times shit is shit."
Listen, I'm not suggesting the Republicans have better answers to these thorny questions. But if this is supposed to be the document that assures national-security minded voters that the Democrats are the more trustworthy party, it falls flat. This plan is the product of the Democrats' least-common-denominator thinking. Instead of bold vision it stinks of timidity — and that's just not going to cut it.