- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle has demanded that the Republican National Committee (RNC) pull a television commercial that is running in Iowa. The half-minute ad, which showcases President Bush speaking during his State of the Union address, takes a shot at Mr. Bush’s critics, who it points out “are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists.” Mr. Daschle complained that the spot is “repulsive and outrageous,” but the White House is merely trying to counter the Democratic tactic of “if you can’t beat him, smear him.” It is our view that the Republican message is right on target.

There is a long litany of nasty swipes that Democrats have been taking at Mr. Bush. Some involve the war, such as when presidential candidate Wesley Clark claimed that the commander in chief was trying to “exploit 9/11 for political purposes” and that “Bush has tried to dishonor the Americans killed in Iraq.” Other strategies are more personal and devoid of any policy angle whatsoever. For example, Mr. Clark has referred to the “alcoholism” that Mr. Bush allegedly battled in the past. A few attacks stick the president with ambiguous civil-rights violations, such as Sen. Teddy Kennedy’s bizarre statement that the RNC ad exposed an “attempt to stifle dissent, [which is] a basic part of what our society is about.”

Behind the attacks is a deep Democratic defensiveness about the liberal party’s patriotism. On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Mr. Daschle complained: “To chastise and to question the patriotism of those who are in opposition to some of the president’s plans, I think, is wrong … There is an implication here, as they’ve done throughout this debate on Iraq, that if you oppose the president, your patriotism ought to be questioned, that there is some degree of question about the degree of your commitment to the country or your commitment to the effort. That’s certainly implied once again in the ad.”

The RNC commercial did not imply a Democratic lack of patriotism — Mr. Daschle inferred it for political cover. Almost every time the president or Republicans criticize Democrats on national-security issues, the Democrats conjure up the non-charge of their lack of patriotism to obscure the reality that their party has no alternative antiterrorism plan.

Democrats are employing historic harshness in their attacks on a president during a time of war. A new campaign ad by Howard Dean charges that “[the president] misled the nation about weapons of mass destruction.” This flagrantly states that Mr. Bush purposely deceived the country. The new lows reflect that the Democratic Party has lost all traditional restraints that partisan leaders practiced in wars past. Having dropped a mountain of boulders on the president, Democrats now complain when a few pebbles land on their own doorstep. Perhaps those living in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.

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