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This past Sunday, James Carville mocked the discovery of buried uranium-enrichment equipment in the backyard of Shukur Ubaydi – a key leader of Iraq’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons prior to the 1991 Gulf War. Carville derided the centrifuge parts as looking like “a carburetor some redneck would have in his garage.”

NBC’s Russert did not challenge Carville on this astonishing display of partisanship dressed up as ignorance, but the statement revealed a great deal about Democratic strategy on the WMD debate that has already begun: Deny the relevance and importance of every piece of evidence, and assert that nothing has been proven.

The centrifuge? A redneck’s carburetor. The mobile bio labs? Could be agriculture-related. The movements of al-Qaida operatives through Baghdad? Saddam may not have know about them. The Kurdish terrorist camp? Saddam didn’t control that area. The unmanned aerial vehicles that could fly hundreds of miles? They couldn’t fly from Baghdad to D.C., so they were no threat.

The pattern is now clear, and Carville underlined it by dismissing the most damning evidence yet of Iraq’s danger to the world. Despite a decade of inspections and six months of Iraqi denials of illegal activities and Iraqi promises and guarantees of full cooperation with U.N. inspection teams, Iraq was discovered to have been concealing the key components of the most dangerous weapon system of all. Late in June, the CIA removed the photos of Carville’s carburetor from its website after warnings were voiced that the pictures could provide too many details to nuke-hungry enemies of the U.S.

No word yet on whether all photos of carburetors have been deleted from the Web.

The partisan attacks on Vice President Cheney over his warnings that Iraq might try to reconstitute a nuclear-weapons program have continued even after this announcement of the find of the buried materials. One wonders what a reconstituted program would look like? If the other materials secreted by Saddam around the country are unearthed, will that satisfy critics? Of course not. The critics cannot be satisfied because they cannot admit the key points: Saddam never complied with the U.N., and would never have complied with the U.N., and had Bush not acted, eventually Saddam or his sons would have unearthed the centrifuges, reproduced them by the thousands, and pulled a North Korea.

That is the bottom line: The U.S. now has hard evidence that Saddam intended to obtain nukes some day – that his regime never did and would never have become a compliant participant in international schemes designed to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.

More discoveries will certainly follow, as will Democratic denunciations of their relevance. This is an excellent display of the basic Democratic disability: The party of the left is incapable of taking threats to American national security seriously.

Clinton ignored the nature of the threats posed by al-Qaida, North Korea and Iran, and his actions against Iraq were insufficient to disarm or topple Saddam. In other words, he failed in his primary duty to protect and defend the United States. Bush has not yet succeeded on all fronts, but his seriousness cannot be questioned, as the Taliban and Saddam have learned.

Faced with that clear truth about the president, Democrats have decided to mock the threat in addition to the man. In doing so they announce to the electorate a key truth that the electorate cannot forget: The Democrats cannot see threats, and lacking the ability to see them, lack the ability to defend against them. In other words, Democratic fecklessness, as best expressed by their principal political strategist James Carville, could get you killed.

That will be the issue of 2004, and every other issue pales in comparison. The Democrats cannot be trusted to defend the country because they cannot be trusted to take threats to the country seriously. Call it the carburetor test. And we have James Carville to thank for making the issue obvious.

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