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Why Were Iraq War Cheerleaders Front & Center at Last Night’s DNC?

Biden seems to have more in common with Republican hawks and liberal interventionists than reformers he claims to champion.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry endorses Joe Biden during the DNC convention Tuesday.

Democrats want to woo disaffected Republican and independent voters. But the degree to which the DNC convention prime time speaking slots favored defecting Republican neocons like Cindy McCain, John Kasich and Colin Powell over upstart fresh-faced Democrats like Julián Castro, Rep. Pramila Jayapal or Rep. Ayanna Pressley, was jarring; unabashed support for the Iraq War seemed to be the main thread that connects these erstwhile Republicans with Democrat speakers like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

On the first night, in a speech recorded at a literal crossroads in Westerville, Ohio, former Ohio governor John Kasich, said, “I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country. That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen. But these are not normal times.”

Kasich was followed by former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-N.J.), former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) and former Hewlett-Packard and eBay CEO and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate, Meg Whitman.

Ostensibly, the purpose of this procession of former Republicans was to solidify Biden’s ranking with independent voters on the fence, but activists on the left were quick to notice the snub given their own compatriots’ positions.

“The party should be focused on energizing Democratic voters rather than using their convention to reassure billionaires, corporate donors and Republican lobbyists that they won’t actually try to challenge the status quo,” said David Sirota, a former speechwriter for Senator Bernie Sanders and editor of Jacobin magazine.

While the left’s rising star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was given just a minute to speak, wherein she endorsed Bernie Sanders, Iraq War supporters and cheerleaders were prominently featured: failed Democratic presidential candidate and Obama’s former Secretary of State John Kerry unabashedly intoned that Joe Biden “knows you can’t spread democracy around the world, if you don’t practice it at home.” 

Gen. Colin Powell, chiefly remembered for his 2003 speech to the United Nations packed with lies about WMDs to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, said Biden would “restore… values to the White House.”

Sen. John McCain’s widow Cindy McCain also endorsed the long-time Delaware Senator, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will endorse him Wednesday night.

Perhaps the presence of so many Iraq War cheerleaders is unsurprising: Biden was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that voted to give President George W. Bush broad authority to go to war in Iraq; and he didn’t just vote for the war—he helped sell it to the American public.

The procession of so many grey-haired figures associated with America’s worst foreign policy disasters and the polity of decades past added to the snoozy, Zoom-meeting quality of the event, standing at odds with the activism and young blood Democrats so recently injected into the House.

“Michael Bloomberg, the architect of stop-and-frisk, is speaking at the DNC and Jamaal Bowman, who was stopped and frisked under Bloomberg, is not,” noted Walleed Shahid, spokesperson for Justice Democrats.

Where were “Lauren Underwood? Anna Eskamani? Jennifer Carroll Foy? How about Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes or Pennsylvania lieutenant governor John Fetterman?” asks an article titled “Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage” which complains that “the DNC’s choice of who to feature speaks volumes about the party’s inability to see its own future.”

Or maybe the Democratic party has always had more in common with establishment Republicans than with the causes it claims to champion.

“Minds are wiped and Iraq War architects become Resistance heroes and Democratic convention speakers. Memories are scrubbed and Wall Street thieves become Democratic economic gurus and treasury secretaries,” writes Sirota. “Amnesia takes hold and the Democratic governor of Mount Covid becomes a pandemic mancrush. Democrats lose a presidential campaign to Donald Trump by defending the Washington establishment — and now four years later they are running the same Washington valor campaign again, telling themselves they’re too legit to quit, baby.”

The promotion of neocons and war hawks, and the relegation of prominent young liberals at the DNC’s own convention, gives away the game on what sort of policies a Biden administration would pursue; in the words of Biden himself, he would lead a presidency where “nothing would fundamentally change.”

about the author

Barbara Boland is TAC’s foreign policy and national security reporter. Previously, she worked as an editor for the Washington Examiner and for CNS News. She is the author of Patton Uncovered, a book about General George Patton in World War II, and her work has appeared on Fox News, The Hill UK Spectator, and elsewhere. Boland is a graduate from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania.  Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC.

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