December 3, 2005
Hit ‘Em Again, Harder
By J. Peter Mulhern
When he took the nation’s highest office, George W. Bush
famously called himself a uniter, not a divider, signaling a kinder,
gentler approach to Washington politics. Fat lot of good it did
him. He faces opponents who offer no quarter, even when the national
interest is at stake. It is well past time to take off the gloves
and return fire.
at the United States Naval Academy this week was powerful. It
said most of the things that need saying about our war in Iraq
and it left the Democrats backpedaling as they gasped for breath.
At the heart of the President’s argument, however, was a
contradiction which undercuts his case for the war in Iraq.
castigated those who demand an “artificial timetable”
for an American withdrawal, but only after making this remarkable
advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops
are sincere, but I believe they’re sincerely wrong.”
the President went on to say
an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across
the world that America is weak and an unreliable ally. Setting
an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our
enemies that if they wait long enough, America will cut and
run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline
to withdraw would vindicate the terrorist tactics of beheadings
and suicide bombings and mass murder and invite new attacks
all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will
not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as
I am your commander in chief.”
How is it
possible that purportedly patriotic American public officials
can be sincere when they conspire to cut and run from our deadly
enemies, to portray America as a weak and unreliable ally and
to invite new attacks on our homeland? The President can’t
have it both ways. If he is right about the dire consequences
of preemptive withdrawal, he must be wrong about his opponents’
sincerity. When he concedes their sincerity he calls his own into
question. The average listener hears him say that the Democrats
are sincere and concludes that their policy prescriptions can’t
be as outrageous as he says they are.
As it happens,
the Democrats aren’t sincere. They aren’t anywhere
in the vicinity of sincerity. When they call for withdrawal from
Iraq, as Nancy Pelosi did again in a response to the President’s
speech, they are damaging their country. As the President pointed
out, this is obvious. No Democrat has even tried to argue that
scheduling a withdrawal would not have the consequences the President
outlined. We must conclude that the Democrats know they are working
counter to America’s interests at the same time they present
themselves as patriotic public servants. This is the antithesis
are, in fact, so insincere that they will not even acknowledge
their own words, let alone defend them. Senator John Kerry, responding
on behalf of his party, whined that Democrats never wanted a timetable
for withdrawal, just a timetable for success.
This is the
same Senator Kerry who, on October 27, 2005, called for an immediate
withdrawal of 20,000 troops with the great bulk of the remainder
to follow by the end of 2006. The Washington Post certainly
thought Kerry was proposing a timetable for withdrawal. It noted
that Kerry was “the highest-profile figure in either party
to back a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq.”
is so complex and profound that even the Washington Post
cannot follow his interlocking nuances. On the other hand, he
just might be a pompous windbag without even enough wit to gesture
in the direction of consistency. Pompous windbag seems about right
try to reconcile what he said in October with what he said in
November. Nor did he bother to explain how the President might
be able to provide a timetable for success without consulting
Ms. Clio. His speech was, as usual, nothing but bland, meaningless
mush. It is incredible that Kerry ever rose above trying dog bite
cases in Boston. In a sense, he never did.
Bush has been extraordinarily fortunate in his political enemies.
They, in turn, have been fortunate in him. He has no appetite
for rhetorical hardball. Now and then he will state an unpleasant
truth about the Democrats in Congress, but he never follows his
own insights to their logical conclusions. The rest of us are
left wondering whether he believes what he says.
A war leader
can’t afford to raise that kind of doubt.
parent learns, leadership is largely about consistency. When the
President describes outrageous conduct but fails to condemn it
or to show outrage he is sending a mixed message. No war leader
can afford mixed messages. President Bush, in particular, needs
to speak with clarity and urgency.
lose in Iraq; the balance of forces favors us overwhelmingly.
We can, however, lose the political battle at home. Everything
depends on the President’s ability to fight that battle.
If he is going to do that effectively he has to start treating
the Democrat Party as the domestic enemy that it is. Continuing
to pretend that the Democrats are a loyal, if misguided, opposition
will only introduce more confusion where we most need clarity.
the President may be engaging in a bit of insincerity of his own
when he concedes his opponents’ good faith. He may be following
in the tradition of Marc Anthony’s funeral oration from
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Marc Anthony punctuates his
praise for the assassinated Caesar by saying repeatedly “But
Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.”
The scene ends with Mark Anthony’s audience storming off
to burn Brutus’ home.
worked for Marc Anthony but, he had history’s greatest speechwriter
in his corner. Saying exactly what you mean in consistent, direct
declarative sentences is a better approach, particularly if you
have the verbal grace of George W. Bush.
If the President
is trying to sweeten his image by avoiding any direct attack on
his domestic enemies he is going to be disappointed. His enemies
include the entire Democrat establishment (with the sole exception
of Senator Lieberman), all the major daily newspapers and all
three of the old line television broadcasting networks. Their
hatred for him is white hot. They will remain implacably hostile
even if he blows them kisses and throws roses at their feet. They
will view everything he does and everything he says through the
prism of their hostility. He has nothing to lose by telling the
truth about them. He might as well be hanged for a sheep as a
has nothing to lose by attacking the Democrats and a great deal
to gain. Democrats are extremely vulnerable right now and President
Bush should press his advantage. It isn’t enough to beat
their pathetic arguments. The goal is to beat them and to do so
decisively. That goal is well within reach.
Party has just entered the McGovern Zone. The nation is at war
against deadly enemies and the Democrats are going into an election
committed to capitulation. They are gambling everything on failure
in Iraq. If, in six months, successful elections have been held
in Iraq and we have begun reducing our troop levels there, only
a few hardcore nutjobs will still cling to the idea that Iraq
is a hopeless quagmire. That idea is all the Democrats have to
offer and when it dies the Democrat Party itself will be teetering
on the edge of extinction.
We know what
an election looks like when one party nails its colors to the
mast of the SS Surrender while the other makes steady
progress toward “peace with honor.” It happened in
1972. If the Democrats want a rerun it is up to President Bush
and the Republican Party to make that rerun as devastating as
pay through the nose for their defeatism, Mr. President. Remember
Al Gore sweating and frothing and the mouth as he bellowed that
you “betrayed this country.” Throw it back at them
they stop twitching and then attack some more. If this seems unpresidential,
the Vice President can do it. But one way or another, it’s
past time for a serious offensive on the home front.
Peter Mulhern is a frequent contributor to The
American Thinker. He is lawyer in the Washington, DC area,
and a regular guest commentator on KSFO radio in San Francisco.