Jewish World Review June 9, 2006/ 13 Sivan, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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Some good news, and no asterisks | SAN DIEGO — If the slaying of Abu Musab Zarqawi can't cure George W. Bush of the Rodney Dangerfield disease, it's difficult to imagine what would.

This looks like what the White House political team, hungry for a little respect, was waiting for, an unqualified accomplishment of men at arms just as the growing chorus of presidential critics was about to persuade a lot of his friends that the war in Iraq is not worth the enormous effort already spent, with a lot more to come.

The results in several primary elections on Tuesday, though not spectacular, nevertheless ought to have given the president something to cheer about. The Republicans saved, just barely, an important House seat here in San Diego, the largest pocket of Republican strength in a state that has drifted from red to blue, and the Democrats nominated the man arguably the least likely to unseat Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California in November.

But Republican success in California, such as it may be, is not about George W. The governor has put considerable distance between himself and the president, dispatching his National Guard troops to the border only reluctantly because he thought it was only for show, and Brian Bilbray, the winner of the special election to replace Randy "Duke" Cunningham, mocked the president's amnesty (and all but mocked the president himself) in his victory statement.

"To the Bush administration, to the Senate, flat out," he told a radio interviewer, "my opponent ran on your ticket of amnesty; I ran against it, on 'no amnesty.' The message ought to be that now, and here, is the time to take care of this problem.... What don't you get about the word 'illegal?' "

The president, clearly more than a little annoyed to be painted into a corner on the immigration issue that has put public opinion on the boil, continues to needle the considerable number of his friends who want to get tough on the border before playing Santa Claus to the illegal aliens already here. "Deportation," he told a Hispanic prayer breakfast yesterday, "just ain't gonna work."

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Perhaps not, but the Senate will have to get a lot tougher on the border, beyond the token but highly publicized raids on pockets of immigrants, before the Senate and House can get together on a compromise. The Senate bill, stuffed into a bag of goodies for the illegals and their employers that even Santa and Donder, Blitzen & Co. couldn't carry, continues to be the "compromise" that the critics of amnesty are told they must embrace.

The good news from Iraq, for the president and for everyone but the regiments of embittered losers and soreheads on the extreme Democratic left, comes with no asterisks, political or otherwise. By all accounts the dispatch of Zarqawi was a textbook exercise of military planning, precision and performance. Two U.S. F-16 fighter-bombers dropped 500-pound bombs on a house in a village near Baqouba northeast of Baghdad, and the No. 1 al Qaeda man in Iraq was on his way to what passes for glory in the gruesome theology of radical Islam. The reaction of Zarqawi's brother was typical of the cult: "We expected he would be martyred. We hope he will be joined with other martyrs in heaven."

Not in heaven, surely, but the coalition forces will continue to work on providing an expanding cast for a reunion in a warmer climate somewhere else. The news was so unexpected, so stunning after a fortnight of grim accounts of car bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks that some of the Arab capitals at first didn't seem to know what to say. In Saudi Arabia, viewers could only watch a program instructing women to be content with their fourth-class status; in Yemen, the station broadcast demure travel scenes and an obscure Egyptian-made soap opera.

The triumph for "the coalition of the willing" was the greatest feat of arms since the capture of Saddam Hussein, and no small part of the good news is that the reconstituted Iraqi security forces were first on the scene, arriving with smoke still rising from the rubble. Celebrating death, even of an evil enemy, is not a rite of Christendom, but the slaying of Zarqawi is nonetheless something to cheer about. "They know our determination to defeat them is total," Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London. George W. was more restrained, not saying much. His men in Iraq had spoken for him.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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