Jewish World Review April 9, 2004/ 19 Nissan, 5764
A dishy schoolmarm gets the
The interlocutors of the 9/11 Chowder
Society and Uptown Minstrel Show got
their turn on national television
yesterday and were unexpectedly
disappointed. Condoleezza Rice got all
the good lines.
The Democrats who only last week
complained that they couldn't get
answers from the White House were
reduced yesterday to kvetching that
Miss Rice should keep her answers
short to give them more time on
Richard Ben-Veniste, one of the
Democratic lawyers on the panel,
interrupted Miss Rice several times,
anxious to get his bloviating in if only
edgewise. Once, when he interrupted
her not for the last time, she told him
tartly: "I would like to finish my point."
(She thought getting answers to
questions was what the exercise was
"I didn't know there was a point,"
Mr. Ben-Veniste shot back. Anyone
watching on television expected to see
the telephone number of his law office
flash across the bottom of the screen
with the message: "If you have been
involved in an automobile accident, or
have suffered side effects from a drug
prescription, call this number. ..."
The Democrats have embarked on a
foolishly ambitious strategy, to paint
George W. Bush, who has liberated two
countries in the thrall of terrorist goons
bent on putting the world in beards
and burkas, as weak on terrorism and
too timid to confront goons. Miss Rice
(spectators in another, more robust
era would have thought her to be a
particularly dishy schoolmarm) patiently
explained to the panel how President
Bush came to office determined to
develop a "more robust" strategy to
destroy al Qaeda.
"He made clear to me that he did not
want to respond to al Qaeda one attack
at a time. He told me he was 'tired of
swatting flies.' "
The president's metaphor was clear
enough to be appreciated almost
anywhere else, but Bob Kerrey, who
surrendered a seat in the United States
Senate for the more sheltered life of university administrator,
was so puzzled by the president's earthy figure of speech
that he forgot what time it was. He observed that the Bush
administration did not respond to the attack on the USS Cole
in the port of Yemen in the year 2000, oblivious to the
inconvenient fact this was a year before there was a Bush
"Dr. Rice," he said, "we only swatted a fly once. ... How the
hell could [President Bush] be tired?"
This was apparently a reference to the missile strike on
several terrorist training camps ordered by President Clinton,
not President Bush, in 1998. Such is what happens when a
senator retreats to the rigor mortis of the faculty lounge and
a professor's gig of pontificating to teenagers, and then
returns to the demanding world of grown-ups. (He even
referred to Miss Rice once as "Dr. Clarke.")
Miss Rice was determined to be patient. "I think it's only a
figure of speech," she replied. The president was frustrated
that the CIA, whose agents were the fly-swatters, was "only
going after individual terrorists." The president wanted to get
rid of the garbage the worldwide Islamist network
feeding the flies.
A further "tit for tat," the president thought, would only
embolden terrorists, and American interests demanded a
bolder response. "The terrorists were at war with us, but we
were not yet at war with them. For more than 20 years, the
terrorist threat gathered, and America's response across
several administrations of both parties was insufficient."
An election in the midst of war will always tempt lesser
mortals to put partisan interests above all. Democratic
frustration is not difficult to fathom. The party embraced John
Kerry because he was deemed "electable," and now doubts
are surfacing, like a bride's suspicions on the eve of her
wedding day that the man she chose for lucre instead of love
might be a penniless imposter. A month ago the party could
reasonably hope that the economic recovery would remain
"the jobless recovery," but now the evidence undermines
even that hope. But if the news from Iraq continues to be
grim, maybe George W. can be believably portrayed as the
villain of the piece.
Once upon a time, there was another war with the nation's
very security in the balance. Pearl Harbor was followed by
other disappointments, but there was no attempt to drive a
president from office to punish him for the calamity at
Kasserine Pass, for the long bloody slog across Guadalcanal,
for the price paid at Messina and Tarawa. But ours, alas, is
not our grandfathers' America. "Tragically," Condi Rice told
the 9/11 panel yesterday, "for all the language of war spoken
before September 11, this country simply was not on a war
footing." The greater tragedy is that it still is not.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
Wesley Pruden Archives
© 2004 Wes Pruden