Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2003 / 13 Elul, 5763
W's Iraq sting ends Dems' summer daze
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | 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.
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
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