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It did not take long for America’s and Great Britain’s fiercest critics to denounce the allied ultimatum to Saddam.

Chirac of France exclaimed: “Whether it concerns the necessary disarmament of Iraq or the desirable change of regime in this country, there is no justification for a unilateral decision to resort to force.”

Schroeder of Germany announced: “My question was and is: Does the degree of threat stemming from the Iraqi dictator justify a war that will bring certain death to thousands of innocent men, women and children? My answer was and is: No.”

And Daschle of South Dakota joined in: “I’m saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we’re now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn’t create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country.”

Daschle of Dakota standing with Chirac and Schroeder? Yes, that’s exactly what the leader of the Senate Democrats did. Though he voted for the resolution authorizing force last October, and though in 1998 he supported Bill Clinton’s attack on Iraq, Daschle used the hours before the president’s speech on Monday to hurl charges at George Bush.

The only possible explanation for this bitterness is that envy has now totally consumed Tom Daschle. It has destroyed his judgment, and it has unbalanced his understanding of the national interest. His hatred for George Bush is palpable, and he has lost the struggle to conceal it.

The roots of Daschle’s jealousy date to the 2000 election, and then the first tax-cut debate when his own party deserted him to support Bush’s proposals. In the aftermath of 9-11, as the president grew larger, Daschle’s stature diminished even further as Bush commanded every moment and delivered every necessary inspiration. Daschle’s desperation grew pronounced with his attacks that, incredibly, questioned whether Bush knew the 9-11 terrorists were coming.

Then came the campaign of the summer and fall 2002. Although Jim Jeffords had given Daschle the leadership of the Senate, Daschle could not convert that leadership or even history’s decided pull toward the opposition in off-year elections to manage even a draw with Bush. Daschle’s strategy led the Senate Democrats to a humiliating defeat and back into the minority. A forlorn Daschle looked shell-shocked on election night, but soon re-emerged and floated the possibility of his own campaign.

Wiser voices counseled Daschle to sit out the presidential sweepstakes. Daschle is known primarily for obstruction and Democrats worried about his judgment. With his ambitions broken, Daschle set about, Iago-like, to destroying the ambitions of others, first with Miguel Estrada, and teamed with the Senate’s least-rational player Patrick Leahy to take Democrats into the uncharted territory on filibustering an appeals-court nominee.

That would have been reckless enough, but Monday’s speech dove further. Just when you think Daschle has hit bottom, he digs another basement. Other Democrats responded with announcements of support for the country, like Carl Levin and Diane Feinstein. Presidential candidates suspended their campaigns. Columnists muted their denunciations.

But not Daschle. Jealousy has genuinely disfigured his judgment. He rages now, and his face cannot conceal his anger. George Bush dominates the politics of the country and is guiding the world toward a new era, and Daschle is reduced to sputtering about “one life.”

Daschle is an embarrassment to the Democrats, but they are paralyzed and cannot move against him because of their pacifist wing – their Clintons, Kennedys, Leahys and Deans.

Safire’s Political Dictionary explains “Copperhead” this way: “The copperheads were those Northerners who opposed the Union cause during the Civil War. The copperhead snake is considered by many to be the lowest of a low breed: It strikes without warning, contrasted with the fair-minded, noisy rattle-snake.” FDR returned to use the word just prior to World War II when he denounced Charles Lindbergh and the America Firsters as Copperheads.

Now there is a new Copperhead Caucus, with branches in Paris and Berlin. Tom Daschle is its American chair. The country will get to judge it in November 2004.

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