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Tough Enough

By Joe Conason - May 7, 2011

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In a post-9/11 speech delivered to the Republican National Committee in January 2002, while Democrats in Congress and across the country were giving full support to President Bush's declaration of war against al-Qaida and the Taliban, Rove said: "We can go to the country on this issue, because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America."

Rove used that theme to win a smashing victory in the midterm elections that year and amplified the accusation to maximum shrillness when he addressed a conservative group in New Jersey following the president's re-election -- a victory achieved at the cost of defaming a Democratic war hero, Sen. John Kerry, during the 2004 campaign.

"Conservatives saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," he said. "In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to ... submit a petition.

"I don't know about you," he continued, "but moderation and restraint is not what I felt -- and moderation and restraint is not what was called for. It was a moment to summon our national will -- and to brandish steel."

Never mind that the only steel Rove has ever brandished is a dinner fork. The overheated rhetoric, faked intelligence, "enhanced interrogations" and mindless militarism of the Bush administration never produced bin Laden dead or alive, as promised back then, and instead misled us into the trillion-dollar quicksand of Iraq, from which President Obama is still extracting us.

What we ought to learn from these painful years is that restraint can indeed be consistent with resolve -- and that the loudmouths of the right have no monopoly on toughness.

 

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Copyright 2011, Creators Syndicate Inc.

Joe Conason

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