Broder: Democrats have little “sympathy for” the military

In his February 6 column, Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote that retired Gen. Wesley Clark was "[o]ne of the losers" among the potential Democratic presidential candidates who spoke before the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on February 2 because he forgot “that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military.” Broder, who earlier in the column cited the “antiwar sentiments of this liberal-leaning audience,” gave no support for his assertion that Democratic Party members lack sympathy for the military -- an assertion that reflects the assumption, expressed frequently among the media and documented by Media Matters for America, that Iraq war supporters are “pro-military,” and conversely that those opposed to the Iraq war must be anti-military.

Media Matters has also noted that congressional Democrats who opposed the Iraq war resolution voted for legislation to increase spending for veterans and benefits for military families, legislation that was opposed by Republicans who voted for the Iraq war resolution.

Broder wrote:

Both of them [former Sen. John Edwards (NC) and Gov. Bill Richardson (NM)] played to the antiwar sentiments of this liberal-leaning audience by demanding that those now in Congress do more than pass resolutions decrying President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. Edwards wants to pull out 40,000 soldiers now; Richardson said that Iraq “is not worthy of one more lost American life.”


One of the losers in the weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of “Duty, Honor, Country,” forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military. The larger disaster was the long harangue of former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, a strident critic of almost everything and promoter of a folly -- a national initiative process -- that not even a deranged blogger could love. Someone has to give him the hook before the real debates begin.

In a February 6 entry to The American Prospect's Tapped weblog, writing fellow Ezra Klein challenged Broder's “invention of anti-military sentiment at the DNC winter meeting”:

[Sen.] Chris Dodd [D-CT] recounted a heartbreaking tale of a fallen soldier in Iraq, whom he kept calling “his friend.” John Edwards -- who Broder names as the hit speaker of the weekend -- told Democrats that “We are here because somewhere in America a mother wipes her hand on a dishcloth to go answer a knock on her door ... and opens it to find an army chaplain and an officer standing there with solemn faces and her boy's name -- her patriotic son who enlisted after September 11 -- on their lips.” Moreover, the entire meeting was kicked off by a presentation from the local ROTC color guard, in which fully uniformed recruits presented the flag in the traditional way favored by the military. The entire audience stood for the presentation, many of us with our hands on our hearts. Such displays and speeches, of course, didn't fit Broder's narrative, and so he didn't report them. But that doesn't mean they weren't there.