Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2003 / 13 Elul, 5763

Zev Chafets

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W's Iraq sting ends Dems' summer daze | On Sunday night, President Bush performed his annual homage to boxer Muhammad Ali. When the President retreats to Crawford, Tex., in August, his political opponents start slugging away. By Labor Day, the President appears to be bloody and beaten, just barely hanging on.

And then Bush comes back to Washington, springs into action and punches the arm-weary Democrats right in the nose. In boxing, this is called a rope-a-dope. In politics it is known as recasting the debate.

Last summer, Bush's critics were all over him for pursuing a unilateral Iraq policy. Last September, the President responded with a speech to the UN in which he called for - and got - a Security Council resolution. The resolution was worthless, of course; most UN decisions are. But by getting it, Bush knocked his opponents off balance. By the time they recovered, Gen. Tommy Franks was catching crawfish on the banks of the Tigris.

This summer's theme was the failure of the war. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? How come soldiers are dying? What's the exit strategy?

Slowly, the Democratic candidates punched themselves into a frenzy. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean started calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri labeled Bush "a miserable failure." Even Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut got in a few blows. The cheers of the partisan crowd convinced them that they were on the verge of a knockout.

And then, pow! Bush went on TV and told the country that Iraq is simply a battle in a much larger global war against terrorism. And you don't stop in the middle of a war to start fretting over money and counting casualties.

Bush's critics sent up an immediate holler. All along they had been arguing that there was no proven link between deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda (although most Americans had no problem in discerning such a connection). Now with a Baathist-jihadist front operating in Iraq, they found themselves charging Bush with causing this to happen. Like the argument that America is responsible for the rise of radical Islam in Afghanistan, this is a barely relevant debater's point.

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Bush also has answered the defeatist question about the national exit strategy: He intends to fight until the war is won. That will be when he - or some future President - determines that the U.S. and its interests are no longer endangered by a de facto anti-American coalition composed of a soon-to-be nuclear Iran and its Hezbollah terror proxy, Syria (also linked to Hezbollah); Al Qaeda (now operating out of Iran); Palestinian radicals (comrades in arms with both the Saddamites and Hezbollah), and the increasingly less enigmatic Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia.

The President has asked the Congress for money to underwrite the war, and the Democrats will refuse this request at their peril. He also has declared that the U.S. won't cut and run in the face of casualties. This sounds like sacrilege to people in the grips of Vietnam-era timidity. But most Americans will see this as simple common sense. As the dovish former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once asked in a different context, what's the point of having a splendid military if you are afraid to use it?

The Democrats aren't finished, of course. They will recover from the beating they took on Sunday, and the debate will go on.

But the President has already changed its course. Like his fellow tactician, Ali, Bush is back, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

08/26/03: Latinos are looking up
08/13/03: The cynical manipulation of Hitler's legacy for political purposes
07/23/03: Dems under the spell of midsummer's dream
07/21/03: Can't count on Arab polls for the truth
07/14/03: Dead spy walking
07/13/03: It's a mistake to battle insurgents
07/10/03: It's a mistake to send troops to Liberia
06/26/03: A Dem leaps in and lands on his face
06/20/03: Let Iraq build its own playgrounds
06/12/03: Raines and Clinton — boomers gone astray
06/09/03: Why Hillary did believe Bubba and what it says about her prospective presidency
06/04/03: Iran is next: Bush must tell Americans the Big Truth about ayatollahs
05/30/03: NYTimes has a bigger problem than Blair and Bragg — Dowd
05/27/03: Political — and literal — suicide
05/12/03: That noise is Europe rising
05/09/03: Dems overplay the economy card
05/05/03: Truth or Consequences: To win Arab liberals' trust, Bush needs to find Iraq's WMDs
05/01/03: U.S. security, not economy, is key for prez
04/28/03: Real artists, not airheads
04/22/03: Sealed With a Kiss
04/14/03: Don't believe the cheers
04/03/03: Iraq's only the start --- Syria & Iran are next
04/01/03: War's happy troubadours
03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war
03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?
03/17/03: In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em!
03/13/03: Jewish plot? This pol has gone punchy
03/11/03: Prez is ready to finish off the Security Council, too
03/04/03: Those human shields need some star power
02/28/03: How prez could further racial pluralism but end affirnative action
02/24/03: Prof's arrest will test Arab Americans' loyalty
02/11/03: Rhyme, but no reason
02/04/03: McGovern's children
01/23/03: A peace movement that's going nowhere
01/13/03: No time for experts
01/07/03: Senator from Mayberry shouldn't alarm prez
12/31/02: Dem Dummies
12/19/02: Saudis still play Santa to Arafat
12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
12/05/02: Kissinger's Saudi pals litter 9/11 money trail
11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
11/14/02: The Dems don't have a prayer
11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
10/31/02: Sharpton the patriot
10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
10/17/02: Israelis bracing for US' punch at Iraq
10/14/02: Geriatric war resisters
09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

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