- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Did you see the Democratic presidential debate Sunday evening in Detroit? How about some choice gems from a few of the nine who would be president?

President Bush’s policy on Iraq seems to be their favorite subject. As a conservative, my fervent hope is that the televised event enjoyed astronomical ratings. Voters need to see what these people are saying.

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Indeed, I think the Republican National Committee ought to consider underwriting a few more of these Bush-bashing, truth-challenged spectacles on prime time, sandwiched in between the highest-rated reality shows they can find. The only chance the Democrats have of unseating Mr. Bush is if insufficient numbers of people observe their puerile sniping.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, in attempting yet again to spin out of the damning reality that he voted for the Iraq war resolution, had the audacity to insist that his current condemnation of the war is “absolutely consistent” with his vote on the resolution.

“What I voted for was to hold Saddam Hussein accountable but to do it right. [Mr. Bush] has a fraudulent coalition. He promised he would go through the United Nations and honor the inspection process. He did not.”

Mr. Kerry, the fact is that you did not condition your resolution on any kind of an international coalition. If you think it was irresponsible of Mr. Bush to go to war without the precise coalition of nations you say — after the fact — you prefer, then it was irresponsible of you to cast your vote authorizing him to go without that coalition. You can’t have it both ways.

But the truth is, senator, you didn’t impose that condition, because at the time, your political compass said you had no other choice but to support the resolution. You and your colleagues devised this line of criticism only after you saw no other holes in the brilliantly conceived and consummately performed military strategy to remove Saddam from power. Now that terrorists are trying to unsettle things in the post-war environment and weaken our resolve, you and your opportunistic chums are ratcheting up the bogus criticism.

The truth is that if any of you gentlemen remotely approached presidential timber, you would be denouncing the foreign nations who didn’t have the moral character and courage to join us in taking out this man who ceaselessly snubbed his nose at the international community. But your version of exhibiting leadership is to change your position retrospectively based on political considerations.

True leadership requires making the hard decisions without benefit of hindsight. And statesmanship demands that you put aside your personal political ambitions in favor of doing the right thing now, which is to support our efforts in establishing democracy and stability in post-war Iraq. Instead, you and your running buddies are essentially advocating that we reward the behavior of those who are massacring Red Cross workers. When you undermine our military effort in that volatile environment you are playing into the terrorists’ hands. Have you no conscience?

And how about you, Wesley Clark? Is the following quote truly your only explanation for your embarrassing turnaround on Iraq? “Right after 9-11, this administration determined to do bait and switch on the American public. President Bush said he was going to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Instead, he went after Saddam Hussein. He doesn’t have either one of them today. … But the failure of this administration was not to put the troops in to finish the job against Osama bin Laden. And you know why they didn’t do it? They didn’t do it because, all along, their plan was to save those troops to go after Saddam Hussein.”

Mr. Clark, I know you think you have to be cute to compete with the other eight men occupying that stage, but do you really want people to hear you making a statement so utterly disingenuous and absurd on its face? Do you expect even a small fraction of the people to believe that Mr. Bush wouldn’t have done everything in his power to capture or kill bin Laden? We didn’t send our troops into Iraq for a year and a half after we routed the Taliban. Just how far are you willing to go to advance your political career?

The other candidates uttered similar canards, unworthy of anyone seeking the highest office in the land. I just hope they keep on getting their message out often and to as many people as possible.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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