DYCHE | A tale of two speeches - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | A tale of two speeches

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By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

I am for Hilary. Not Hillary. Hilary.

Hilary Benn is the Shadow Foreign Secretary in the British Labour Party. The controversial extreme left-wing Jeremy Corbyn is titular leader of the Labour opposition, but Benn became its de facto leader last week.

His speech during the House of Commons debate on extending British airstrikes against ISIS into Syria ranks with the best in Parliament’s brilliant history. You can, and should, watch and listen to it here:


It lasts less than fifteen minutes. Its impact will last exponentially longer.

There is no setting for political oratory quite like the House of Commons, especially when it is packed for an important issue. From Cromwell to Churchill to today, that chamber is a sacred space for those of us who place our political faith in representative democracy.

Benn broke with Corbyn and backed Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron on the issue. His powerful and persuasive address presented the stakes for freedom-loving peoples under attack by Islamic fascists better than anyone on either side of the Atlantic has.

After outlining his party’s role in founding the United Nations after World War II and reviewing historic instances of its internationalism, Benn made a case as much from morality as from British self-interest. “We never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road,” he told the rapt assembly before his riveting conclusion.

“And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent.

“They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt.

“And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated.

“This entire house stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. And my view is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for the motion tonight.”

Corbyn angrily refused to budge as Benn sought to resume his seat beside him on the Labour front bench after the seat. Amid the electrically charged legislative atmosphere the speech created 66 Labour members abandoned Corbyn and their party to vote with Benn and the victorious Conservatives.

Benn’s was the kind of call to arms many have hoped to hear from President Obama. But Obama’s bland, pedestrian, and uninspiring Oval Office lecture pales by comparison. 

Obama offered no revision of his anti-ISIS strategy that is so demonstrably failing. The barbarians he dismissed as the “jayvee” team are clearly not "contained" as he recently said, and are instead bringing their war for conquest and caliphate to the streets of Western cities.

One suspects that in his heart, Obama is actually closer to Corbyn that to Benn when it comes to doing what is necessary to win this unwanted war with Islamic fascists. He is clearly not up to providing inspiring war leadership.

Back home here in Kentucky, outgoing state auditor Adam Edelen brought Benn’s speech to public attention with favorable tweets. Edelen is a student of British history and politics and an independent, serious Democrat on national security issues.

In that regard, he is in the best traditions of the Democratic Party which has divisions not unlike those between Benn and Corbin. He is also the only Kentucky politician capable of approaching Benn’s eloquence. 

Many therefore looked forward to his running for U.S. Senate next year. But after losing his bid for reelection as auditor in a stunning upset (and despite having saved taxpayers tons of money and improved government practices), Edelen has indicated that he will not make the Senate race. 

Here’s hoping he reconsiders. Kentucky’s Democrats cannot find a better candidate. 

The state, and indeed the nation, would benefit from a debate between Edelen and incumbent Republican Rand Paul about these vital matters. Paul, who is also running for President, is a libertarian non-interventionist. 

This column often disagrees with Paul on defense issues, but he is indisputably intelligent, articulate, and a committed advocate for his positions. In the Senate and in the Republican presidential campaign Paul has provided very valuable counterpoint to those advocating more aggressive American self-defense and global leadership. 

Paul’s critiques of hawks in both parties serve important purposes, but his perspective cannot prevail in the GOP presidential contest. Yet a Senate campaign between Edelen and Paul would have the potential for fantastic substantive dialogue between two very able politicians.

Such a campaign could cause considerable cross-party voting, too. Some Republicans who support a stronger American approach could find themselves supporting Edelen, while some Democrats wary of another war quagmire could find themselves backing Paul.

In the meantime, Americans can compare Obama to Benn when it comes to real leadership. As yet, however, Kentuckians have nobody to compare to Paul.

Nationally and in Kentucky, both parties and all citizens have some critical choices to make. 

(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His email is jddyche@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)

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