(CNSNews.com) - Young liberals this week flocked to the nation's capital to hear, among other things, liberal television pundit and Democrat political strategist Paul Begala accuse Republicans of wanting to kill him and his children to preserve tax cuts for the rich.
Begala was featured at the first-ever Campus Progress National Student Conference, which was designed to provide campus liberals with the tools necessary to fight the conservative movement. The event also drew former President Bill Clinton, for whom Begala once worked as an advisor.
A panel discussion entitled "Winning the War of Ideas" centered on topics discussed in the book "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank and detailed the challenges that Democrats face in persuading voters in the American heartland and elsewhere to embrace their agenda and support their candidates.
Begala's presence on the panel created a stir when he declared that Republicans had "done a p***-poor job of defending" the U.S.
Republicans, he said, "want to kill us. See Video
"I was driving past the Pentagon when that plane hit" on Sept. 11, 2001. "I had friends on that plane; this is deadly serious to me," Begala said.
"They want to kill me and my children if they can. But if they just kill me and not my children, they want my children to be comforted -- that while they didn't protect me because they cut my taxes, my children won't have to pay any money on the money they inherit," Begala said. "That is bulls*** national defense, and we should say that."
The Clinton administration's national security efforts involved the right blend of "experience" and "strength," Begala said, an assertion with which the 9/11 Commission apparently disagreed in its dissection of intelligence policies conducted by the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations..
In its report, the bipartisan commission stated that "each president considered or authorized covert actions, a process that consumed considerable time -- especially in the Clinton administration -- and achieved little success beyond the collection of intelligence."
Begala also included Republican domestic policies in his sweeping criticism. The GOP, he said, "ain't had a new idea since they opposed Social Security, and guess what, they still do. ... They are beginning to figure out that there is no Soviet Union, but they still want Star Wars to stop it," Begala said.
"Okay, they are utterly and completely brain-dead," Begala said, echoing comments earlier this year by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who accused Republicans of being "brain dead." See Video
Frank insisted that Republicans are not quite as tough on national security as many Americans think.
"Franklin Roosevelt got us in World War II. They dragged the Republicans kicking and screaming. They didn't want to get in that war. They didn't have any problem with Hitler. I won't go so far as to say they thought Hitler rocked. But there were people in America who did, and they didn't want us to get in that war. Democrats have always been just as tough as Republicans once they're in office," Frank said. See Video
Frank did not mention one of the most vocal opponents of U.S. intervention in World War II: Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy, who was one of Roosevelt's top fundraisers, the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain and father of John F. Kennedy, who would later become America's 35th president.
Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the eldest of the ambassador's sons, wrote his father with his own observations of the global conflict. Hitler's "dislike of the Jews ... was well-founded," the younger Kennedy explained in his letter.
"In every revolution, you have to expect some bloodshed. Hitler is building a spirit in his men that could be envied in this country," wrote Kennedy, Jr., expressing an opinion his father shared.
"I was very pleased and gratified at your observations of the German situation, and I think your conclusions are very sound," the elder Kennedy replied to his son.
Frank defended his point, however, claiming that Republicans didn't see Hitler as a threat to America until Pearl Harbor.
He repeated the Democratic criticism of America's invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein "was a horrible (sic), a dictator, a butcher, a tyrant, a mass murderer -- as evil as they come," Frank said, but he added: "I don't think he was a threat to the U.S. at the time."
Former Clinton administration Chief of Staff John Podesta told the students that "you can fight hard for what you believe without breaking the law, without cheating and certainly without checking your morals at the door."
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