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With Memorial Day behind us, I have the empty feeling that nothing is going to change very much on the political front until Labor Day is also behind us. The Democrats may have recaptured Congress last November, but I can think of nothing that has changed since then. The Bush Administration continues to be arrogant and out of touch, and the Iraqi misadventure slogs on. Rudy Giuliani is consolidating his candidacy, while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue their kabuki. Why, when poll after poll shows that most Americans want an end to the war, does it persist? The other day, I wrote about the problem with polls, but even assuming them to be trustworthy there would still be something missing. What? Paul Krugman put his finger on what's missing in his column on Monday.

Democratic Party activists were furious, because polls show a public utterly disillusioned with Mr. Bush and anxious to see the war ended. But it’s not clear that the leadership was wrong to be cautious. The truth is that the nightmare of the Bush years won’t really be over until politicians are convinced that voters will punish, not reward, Bush-style fear-mongering. And that hasn’t happened yet.

Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.

But they aren’t, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people’s children to graves at Arlington.

Americans need to be roused to their better selves. Ideally, the Republican Party would act responsibly and stop manipulating anxieties for purely political purposes. Perhaps the Democrats could persuade a plausible presidential nominee to sit this election out and spend the campaign denouncing the fear-mongerers as such.


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