Thursday, September 11 2003

9/11/03: In a drawer right next to my desk I keep the local papers from September 12, 2001. The Chicago Sun-Times ran perhaps the best head and subhead in the country that day: "OUTRAGE - America is Changed Forever as Terrorists Murder Thousands." So true.

These papers are a heart-wrenching testament to the trauma America suffered that beautiful fall morning, and a reminder to all who care to reflect with unvarnished honesty on what took place that day, what we've done since then, and where we're headed in the future. We are, and have been for two years to the very day, at war.

I know it doesn't feel that way as we go about our daily business. I know that we're told every day by some that the War on Terror is just an illusion, a phantasm manufactured by the administration to seize power or money or oil contracts for friends or to destroy our civil liberties. I know there are a number of people in America who feel that we've gotten our "revenge" for September 11, 2001 and that we should pull back, abandon the aggressive concept of preemption and assuage the offended sensibilities of certain members of the international community.

But then we come full circle to days like today and we're reminded of the truth. The pictures of 9/11 don't lie - and they aren't open to interpretation or excuses about "root causes" and the like. They are pictures of evil and tragedy and horror. And they are the kind of terrible pictures we may see again if we don't continue to remember September 11, 2001 as the first strike in a war between good and evil that may last the rest of our lives or longer.

There has been no armistice, no ceasefire, and no renunciation of violence on the part of our enemies. Quite the contrary. Look at the major stories in the newspapers this morning and all you see are reasons we need to fight even harder.

Does this mean that so far we've failed in the War on Terror? Again, I say it's just the opposite. For two years our President has waged as aggressive a War on Terror as he's been able to despite the naysayers, apologists, and appeasers at home and abroad who have stood in his way. I shudder to imagine what horrible stories the newspapers might be carrying if we didn't have a leader so fully devoted to exterminating terrorists and protecting our freedom. - T. Bevan 9:48 am

Wednesday, September 10 2003
THE DEMOCRATS' DEBATE: Some initial thoughts and grades from the Democrat's debate last night in Baltimore.

THE BIG THREE
Howard Dean (A-): Dean wasn't great, but he was very solid, which is probably exactly what his campaign wanted him to be. It was obvious he was trying to portray an image of seriousness and responsibility, as opposed to trying to gin up the faithful. Hey, he's already got the faithful. He came in as the front-runner and he left the front-runner, if not even stronger in relation to Kerry and Gephardt.

John Kerry (C-): The man is lost. His campaign is lost. They are walking around as if they are somehow entitled to the support and press Dean is receiving and they don't appear to have any plan to change their floundering campaign. Just another missed opportunity last night. Whoever has been advising him for the last six months should be fired.

Dick Gephardt (B-): Unlike Kerry, Gephardt at least seems to have some semblance of a plan - attack George Bush mercilessly and loudly. Given the voters he needs to win the nomination it is not a bad strategy. However, he needs to come to grips with his vote for the war and turn it into a positive and use that to attack Dean as weak on defense and national security. His defensiveness on the war vote hurts him. Instead of treating the war vote as an albatross around his neck, Gephardt needs to turn it into a positive and use it to make him the alternative to Howard Dean and someone who has a chance to win the general election. The problem with that advice is that it involves telling a lot of the Democratic base some things they don't want to hear. I acknowledge Gephardt is walking a tightrope, but in the end if he is going to win the nomination he cannot continue to back away from his support of the war.

THE MIDDLE TIER
John Edwards (B): I thought Edwards did a pretty good job. The problem for his campaign is I just don't see the strategy that leads him to capture the nomination. Finishing fourth or lower in Iowa and then New Hampshire isn't a winning plan, especially when he does not have the South wrapped up, not even close. He's a credible dark horse candidate, but I have got to think his main goal is the VP slot.

Joe Lieberman (D): Poor, poor, pitiful Joe Lieberman. I'd feel sorry for him except he has exposed himself to be such a fraud and his racial demagougery on the Florida vote was just despicable. He's getting what he deserves: boos. Does his campaign know that that there is not one national primary for the Democratic nomination? He must sleep well at night trying to reconcile the fact his party's base hates most of what he believes in. Someone should put him out of his misery, he's painful to watch.

Bob Graham (C+): He's the longest of long shots for the nomination and his only chance is a brokered convention. His real campaign seems to be for Vice President and he's doing an OK job. His resume and his home state will keep him on everyone's shortlist and his campaign is helping his odds of being someone's #2.

THE JOKE CANDIDATES
Al Sharpton (A): Funny, entertaining, and he won a lot of respect with how he spoke and dealt with the protesters in the audience. Of course, the man will never be the Democratic nominee or the President of the United States, but he's a fabulous public speaker and he will continue to be a thorn in the Democratic Party's side.

Dennis Kucinich (B): The guy's a socialist, which is fine because thankfully socialism doesn't have a lot of support in the United States. His level of applause and the amount of support he gets in relation to what he should get as a bad ex-mayor and smalltime congressman shows just how far to the left the base of the Democratic Party is in 2003.

Carol Moseley Braun (C+): She looked nice and she gave decent answers, but she is really just taking up space. Maybe she is deluded into thinking she is a viable VP possiblity. On paper she should be a prefect VP candidate: She's black, she's a woman, and she's a former Senator from a big important state. Of course in reality only a fool would pick her to be their running mate.

All in all it was an interesting debate that changed little in the race, which makes it a win for Howard Dean. I think the Democrats self-control in focusing 95% of their attacks on President Bush and not each other helps their party keep Bush on the defensive, though they have to be careful not to go too far. Some of the comments about the President last night seemed to cross the line and were just plain mean-spirited, as opposed to legitimate criticisms over policy. At some point this will turn off crucial voters.  J. McIntyre 7:32 am

Tuesday, September 9 2003
THE NATTERING NINNIES OF NEGATIVISM: I'm dumbfounded over this editorial in today's New York Times accusing President Bush of lacking the character to make tough decisions:

"Despite his tough talk, Mr. Bush seems incapable of choosing a genuinely tough path, of risking his political popularity with the same aggression that he risks the country's economic stability and international credibility. For all the trauma the United States has gone through during his administration, Mr. Bush has never asked the American people to respond to new challenges by making genuine sacrifices."

So what's the "tough path" the NY Times thinks Mr. Bush should follow and the "genuine sacrifices" the NY Times thinks Americans should be making? You guessed it: higher taxes and regulations for more fuel efficient cars.

Adding insult to injury, Gail Collins and her elitist editorial gang finish with this piece of condescending hypocrisy:

"Mr. Bush is a man who was reared in privilege, who succeeded in both business and politics because of his family connections. The question during the presidential campaign was whether he was anything more than just a very lucky guy. There were times in the past three years when he has been much more than that, and he may no longer be a man who expects to find an easy way out of difficulties. But now, at the moment when we need strong leadership most, he is still a politician who is incapable of asking the people to make hard choices. And we are paying the price."

Let's get back to reality: the truth is that Bush has done nothing but make tough decisions since he arrived in office. He's led America into a dangerous new world with a bold, clear vision whose primary objective is to protect our citizens and to battle the evil of terrorism around the globe. And he's done it by the sheer force of his will and his leadership.

Let's also remember that most, if not all of the problems that continue to dog this administration - the bursting of the economic bubble, corporate malfeasance that undermined investor confidence, and the eruption of a terrorist threat that had grown and festered for years with little serious attention being paid to it - were carryovers from the previous administration.

Don't get me wrong or assume I'm a kool-aid drinking Bush apologist. As I've said before, I think the President has made a number of mistakes in his handling of these issues over the last 31 months - from his decision on steel tariffs to not cracking down tougher on corporate fraud to the mounting evidence that his people haven't handled the postwar situation as deftly as they handled the war itself. And I still think the Bush Doctrine will suffer a blow if we don't find and present significant evidence of WMD's and WMD programs in Iraq.

But the more we move ahead through these incredibly difficult times the more the Clinton years strike me as a period of fantastic self-indulgence and complacency. It's almost as if the adults took a vacation from the White House and while they were away the teenage kids ran wild: Pizza parties, sleep overs, and blow jobs under the desk.

And now Bush & Co. are struggling every day to clean up the mess and protect the country. They aren't doing a perfect job, but they are certainly trying in earnest. Like it or not Iraq was and remains part of the global terrorist threat. Dealing with that threat is expensive, messy, and unpredictable work. It's also important work, probably the most important thing we've done as a country since World War II.

You wouldn't know this from the carping coming from the left - from the same people who were enthusiastically whooping it up along with Clinton and Co. during the period in which many of these problems were fostered. Instead, we get pronouncement of quagmires, conspiracy theories and, above all, absolute assertions of lies and deceit on the part of the administration.

Somewhere in an ivory tower in Princeton, New Jersey, Paul Krugman writes:

"It's now clear that the Iraq war was the mother of all bait-and-switch operations. Mr. Bush and his officials portrayed the invasion of Iraq as an urgent response to an imminent threat, and used war fever to win the midterm election. Then they insisted that the costs of occupation and reconstruction would be minimal, and used the initial glow of battlefield victory to push through yet another round of irresponsible tax cuts."

Meanwhile, sitting in Starbucks somewhere with his latte and his secret decoder ring Josh Marshall declares:

"The administration is choking on its own lies and evasions. And we have to bail them out because the ship of state is our ship."

This is not serious stuff, folks. There are two themes here, both of which are false. Marshall and Krugman want us to believe that this administration - perhaps the best, most qualified group of people ever to hold their respective positions - are at the same time a bunch incompetent morons with no plan whatsoever and also the most devious, cunning and deceitful administration in American history.

It's no better with the Democrats' elected representatives and the people vying to be their party's nominee to become leader of the free world. My favorite gripe, however, comes from Senator Ted Kennedy:

"Pouring $87 billion more into this occupation without a plan means repeating the same mistakes that are causing the administration's current failure in Iraq," Kennedy said. "The situation in Iraq is extremely serious, and it reflects a true lack of understanding by this administration of that country and its people."

Kennedy arrives at the Senate every year ready and willing to pour $87 billion (and a helluva a lot more) of taxpayer money into any number of bad, failed or failing government programs at the drop of a hat, but he's unwilling to spend the same amount to battle terror and to make the world a safer place. And Democrats wonder why they aren't taken seriously on matters of foreign policy and national security.

Despite Kevin Drum's recent musings that things wouldn't look all that different from a national security standpoint under a Gore administration, I suspect a large number of Americans sense the Democrats still don't get it. They see the base of the party publicly humiliating any candidate voicing even moderately hawkish views. They continue to hear Democrats' insistence that we do whatever is necessary to get the blessing of the UN members like France and Germany to protect our national security interests. And they probably have an intuitive sense that even if Gore had been President on 9/11 and had retaliated against al-Qaeda, there wouldn't have been the same aggressive, sustained effort to root out terrorism that has been pursued by the Bush team.

In other words, there is no reason to believe - and the Democrats running for president today certainly aren't giving America any new reason to believe - that their response to 9/11 or their approach to terrorism in the future will be anything other than what it was under Clinton. Sure, with 3,000 Americans dead any president would respond in a forceful way. The difference, however, is that Democrats continue to leave the impresson that September 11 didn't change everything, and that after a couple of months of battling terrorism in a serious way they'd be back to business as usual: A few cruise missiles here, a few meaningless UN Security Council resolutions there, and some police work followed by criminal trials. That simply isn't enough anymore. - T. Bevan 11:15 am

Monday, September 8 2003
SUMMER IS OVER: President Bush addressed the nation last night and retook the offensive in the early stages of Election 2004. Mr. Bush's long August vacation, coupled with the recent bad news in Iraq and the constant pounding by the Democrats running for President and the press, has taken a toll on the President's job approval. Our latest RCP Poll Average shows Bush's job approval at its lowest level since the attacks on September 11th.

Last night was the beginning of the White House's plan to regain the initiative. I thought the President's speech was solid, an 8.5 on a scale of 1-10. He did what he had to do: articulate to the country that progress is being made in Iraq and reemphasize the importance of our mission there.

The very first sentence of his speech exposed the burgeoning difference between the President's approach and the approach of the majority of Democrats. "I have asked for this time to keep you informed of America's actions in the war on terror. " The "War on Terror", not the "War in Iraq."

This distinction is crucial and it will hold the key to how successful the President and the GOP will be in next year's election. If the American public sees the action in Iraq as just one phase in the ongoing War on Terror, the President can expect firm and long-lasting support for his policy. The minute the majority of Americans see the war in Iraq as an adventure completely unrelated to the War on Terror, the President will be in big, big trouble.

Two recent articles summed up the differing viewpoints nicely. David Horowitz wrote in the Washington Times yesterday:

"Imagine the date is Sept. 12, 2001. Ask yourself this question: Are you willing to bet that two years will pass and there will not be another terrorist attack on American soil?

I will wager that there is not one person reading this column who would have made that bet two years ago. There is only one reason for this relative security that Americans enjoy. It is not that the terrorists have given up their violent agendas or their hatred for us. They have not. It is not because U.S. borders are secure or because US internal security systems have been successfully overhauled.

There is one reason — and one reason alone — that Americans have been safe for the almost two years since the September 11 attacks.

That reason is the aggressive war that President Bush and the US military have waged against international terrorism and its "Axis of Evil." The war on terrorism has been fought in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad instead of Washington and New York. By taking the battle to the enemy camp, by making the terrorists the hunted instead of the hunters, Mr. Bush and the US military have kept Americans safe. Now the battlefield of the war on terrorism is post-liberation Iraq. "

Horowitz concludes, and I agree, that unless the Democratic Party gets behind this war they will have no electoral future. However, in the most recent edition of Newsweek, Jonathan Alter espouses the liberal media's opinion (and the opinion of 80%+ of elected Democrats in Congress) of Iraq and President Bush's conduct post 9/11:

Between blind loyalty and blind defiance sit most Americans, still rubbing their eyes in amazement at how much has changed in only two years. In the wrenching aftermath of September 11, the American flag became a security blanket to warm a wounded nation: Stars and Stripes sprouted in even the most left-wing lapels and the French daily, Le Monde, ran a banner headline: WE ARE ALL AMERICANS NOW.

For a time, the president struck just the right tone in his speeches and launched just the right policy in Afghanistan, where he promised that “the Evil One”—Osama bin Laden—would be brought to justice, though the public patiently understood this might take a few weeks or months. Because the United States was blameless on 9/11—and certainly did not “have it coming,” as a few ignorant left-wingers claimed—dissent went into the deep freeze, subordinated to a need to pull together and take comfort in the greatness of America.

But soon patriotism moved from a comfort to a cudgel.... now a hard-nosed Democratic critique has emerged, reflected in Howard Dean’s surprising success and Al Franken’s runaway best seller that documents lies told by Bush and other conservatives. This view is a twist on Bush’s taunt to the terrorists, “Bring ‘em on.” These Democrats are essentially saying to him: “Go ahead, make ads wearing that flight suit on the aircraft carrier; visit Ground Zero with a bullhorn during the GOP convention next year in New York; try to ‘Dukakisize’ the Democratic nominee as an unpatriotic weenie. This time, it ain’t working.”

Those “freedom fries” in the House cafeteria are burning us now; those gibes that John Kerry “looks French” don’t look so clever. Maybe all that liberal talk about involving the United Nations wasn’t so squishy and unpatriotic after all.

That may all sound good at first, but in reality it is nothing more than a call for a return to the Clinton foreign policy of the 90's that left us so vulnerable. President Bush crystallized this distinction very nicely last night:

"For America, there will be no going back to the era before September the 11th, 2001 -- to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities."

I don't know about you, but I want my safety and my family's safety relying on our young Marines and Rangers and Seals and not the goodwill of France and Kofi Annan's United Nations.

President Bush is exactly right; "terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness". I suspect next November the majority of Americans will feel the same way - and George W. Bush will win a second term no matter how big the deficit or what the unemployment rate may be.   J. McIntyre 7:23 am

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