What do Paul Tsongas, Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin and Douglas Wilder have in common? Their inexperience in international affairs and national security matters. The ongoing dramatic events in the Soviet Union have reminded one and all how serious a flaw that is in a candidate for a major party's presidential nomination.
These Democrats, like some other possible candidates, have been insisting that domestic issues are central to the 1992 presidential campaign. As Mr. Tsongas put it during another international crisis: "The real dangers are here, not in Iraq." Obviously, a presidential candidate should have a domestic agenda. Health care, crime, jobs, etc. are important. But a president takes an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution," and that is most compelling in terms of foreign threats, direct and indirect. The job description in the Constitution begins with "The President shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. . ."
George Bush was a heavy favorite to win in 1992 before the upheaval in the Soviet Union. He will be a prohibitive favorite, if the Democrats' choice of candidates is limited to men with little or no credibility as strong, knowledgeable leaders and managers of the world's only super power.
There are, however, Democrats with the credentials to debate President Bush on war and peace, diplomacy, trade and related issues. Even in a losing cause, such Democrats could demonstrate that the party does nurture and can provide men of presidential -- of commander-in-chief -- stature. Not to come forth with such a candidate in 1992 could produce the sort of crushing, demoralizing landslide that occurred when George McGovern was nominated in 1972. Now is the time for all good Democrats to come to the aid of the party.
Sen. Sam Nunn would be a very credible candidate. The chairman of the Armed Services Committee once issued an almost Sherman-like statement, but times have changed since then -- the Soviet scare and the absence of credible Democratic candidates. He should reconsider. As chairman of the Finance Committee, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen has developed an expertise on trade matters, which has also educated him in foreign policy. Sen. Bill Bradley, who has shown great reluctance to enter the race, has improved his credentials through his involvement in international relations and service on the Senate Intelligence Committee. These three, and perhaps others, owe it to their party to seek the presidential nomination in 1992.