- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Congress returned to town this week for an abbreviated session. One doesn’t need to be psychic to predict little will be accomplished in the run-up to the November election. Democrats, aided by their many media allies, can be counted on to parrot their latest line about the “incompetent” Bush administration.

When gas prices rose to near record levels this summer, it was supposedly due to Bush administration incompetence. Gas prices have now dropped to well under $3 a gallon where I live. If Mr. Bush’s “incompetence” caused the spike, does he now get credit for the decline? Market forces set gas prices, so he should neither be blamed for the spike, nor praised for the decline, but the Democrats won’t see it that way.

August employment figures again show a healthy economy due largely to what Democrats call “irresponsible” tax cuts for the wealthy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total nonfarm payroll employment rose 128,000 last month, with the unemployment rate staying at a low 4.7 percent. Does the president get competence points for this? Not from Democrats.

The war on terror scored an important victory last weekend with the arrest of al Qaeda’s No. 2 in Iraq, Hamed Jumaa Farid Saeedi. Iraqi and coalition forces issued a statement that the arrest caused al Qaeda a “serious leadership crisis.” Will Democrats and their media allies praise the Bush administration for this sign of competence in fighting the Iraq war? No, because this is about Democrats regaining power and nothing more. Were the Bush administration to announce it had discovered the fountain of youth and cures for cancer and adolescent rebellion, it wouldn’t be enough.

Since September 11, 2001, President Bush has repeatedly stressed that the war with terrorism will be long, difficult and frustrating. It is unlike any war the country has fought and so all comparisons — from the time it is taking, to the number of casualties — are imperfect. It is not a war America chose to begin; it is a war the United States could not escape.

This war was unavoidable, because religious fanatics concluded a new strategy was needed after Arab states lost five wars to Israel. They viewed Israel as strong — until the Lebanon fiasco — and the United States as weak. That weakness, they determined, wasn’t in military might, but in staying power. They calculated the U.S. lacks the stomach for a long war, especially one fueled by religious fanaticism.

Seeing America as religiously weak and morally challenged, the islamofascists are determined to strike us where we live. The Clinton administration failed to see this war coming, but Democrats do not regard its minimal response to terrorist attacks as incompetence or weakness. Condemnation is reserved exclusively for President Bush, who they say misjudged the war on terror by attacking Iraq. But the war was coming and would have come with or without the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

If the United States and the rest of the coalition does not defeat the insurgents in Iraq, that country will become a terror state and the price we will pay when future attacks against America are launched from an islamofascist Iraq, allied with Iran, will make September 11 pale in comparison.

At a symposium last spring on “Islam and the West,” sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations noted, “The human species is facing a huge historical, cultural problem. … For reasons that have very little to do with the U.S., we need to face the fact that we’ll be living with this for a very long time.” Mr. Mead said it isn’t just an Arab problem, but an Islamic world problem, which transcends borders and regions. “If you don’t understand this, you’re deluding yourself,” he said.

Do Democrats and their media allies understand this or are they deluding themselves? What would they do differently from the Bush administration in credibly fighting this plague that transcends borders, regions and political parties?

If Democrats win a congressional majority in the fall election, they must do more than try to frustrate the president, hoping to win the White House in 2008. The war won’t wait for them to prove their competence, or incompetence.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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