A week and a half ago, almost to the hour of the second anniversary of September 11, 2001, the star guest on NBC’s “Today Show” was Hillary Rodham Clinton. And what her hostess Katie Couric, America’s favorite wake-up gal, wanted to know about the terrorist attacks on the senator’s home state was this: Did the White House “mislead” the American people about the air quality at Ground Zero?
Come again? We all know President Bush “misled” (Katie was being coy) the American people on Niger and British intelligence and weapons of mass destruction and what he knew in advance and a gazillion other things, blah blah blah. But Katie and Hillary seemed to think he had also misled the world about whether the post-September 11 air quality at the World Trade Center was “safe.” Who would have thought, with all the other things on his plate he had to mislead people about, he would have had time to mislead them on vital environmental regulatory information, too?
Almost anyone who isn’t a hard-core Democratic partisan and switched on NBC that morning would have thought: “Are these gals crazy? That’s what they reckon the biggest issue of September 11 is? Federal air-quality regulations?”
Aware that the air-quality chit-chat was making her and Katie look like a couple of very literal airheads, Hillary gamely tried to deflect her host’s obsession — “Well, you know, I’d be happy to talk to you about that at another time. I think today I want to keep the focus on … ” but the opportunity to allege another Bush cover-up was just too darn tempting.
Meanwhile, in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the “centrist” candidates hoped to make their stand on the intriguingly nuanced distinction Mr. Bush was far too slow to act on doubtful intelligence re September 11 but far too quick to act on doubtful intelligence re Iraq. It doesn’t make much sense but its very lack of consistency is what passes for “moderation” in the modern Democratic Party.
Unfortunately, the more the moderates attack Mr. Bush for his handling of the war, the more the livelier lads on their left attack the moderates for the moderateness of their attacks on Bush. Most of the senators running for the nomination have been tugged so far to the left by the antiwar front-runner Howard Dean, they’re now running against their own voting records as much as against the president.
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina voted for the “Patriot Act” but is now opposed to it. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts voted to authorize war with Iraq but now says that in voting for war he wasn’t actually voting for war. Perish the thought. It never occurred to him that, after getting Mr. Kerry’s vote in favor of a war, the president would be dumb enough to take him at his word. No, sir. In voting to authorize war, the senator says he was really voting to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq. “It was right to have a threat of force,” he says, “because it’s only the threat of force that got Hans Blix and the inspectors back in the country.” So, when he votes to whack your taxes up, he’s really only trying to encourage you to comply with the tax rates that already exist?
And, now that Howard Dean has driven most of his plausible rivals crazy, we have a new Voice of Sanity — Gen. Wesley Clark, whose responses to questions on the war make the French foreign minister sound like a straight-shooter.
With the president spending August back at the ranch, the Dems and their media chums have had the run of the playpen. And, with a bit of offshore assistance from the British press and just about every European government, their big routine for the entire month was: Iraq’s a quagmire. The war on terror’s a failure. We need to surrender now before things get any worse.
And the net result of this media onslaught? According to a poll in The Washington Post, 69 percent of Americans think Saddam was involved in September 11.
According to all the experts, that’s the one thing that absolutely isn’t true: oh, no, they’ve assured us, there’s absolutely no connection between Saddam and terrorism; why, he’s “secular,” they’re “fundamentalist,” and ne’er the twain shall meet, etc.
Sixty-nine percent of Americans beg to differ. You may say that just shows what a bunch of morons they are, which is fine and dandy if you’re a Fleet Street hack or a European foreign minister. But it’s not a viable position for a Democratic Party candidate. Unfortunately, the Dems need a good third of that moron vote if they’re not to be humiliated at the polls next November.
Besides, who are the real morons here? According to another poll in the last week, 70 percent of Iraqis are optimistic about the future. Egged on by their media pals, the Democrats have somehow managed to wind up on the wrong side of 70 percent of both the U.S. and Iraqi electorates, cut off in the corner reserved for wimps, defeatists, Eurosophists and Halliburton-planned-September 11 conspirazoids.
Look at it this way: What do you think that 69 percent of Americans make of Katie and Hillary marking the anniversary of September 11 with a discussion on environmental regulatory compliance? Or previously sensible Democratic senators twisting themselves into pretzels to explain why their vote for war was in fact a principled vote against war? Or a four-star general whose general position is that real men don’t have positions unless they’re approved by the French? How many of that 69 percent want to trust their national security to these fellows? Or want them handling North Korea and Iran?
I happen to think George W Bush is vulnerable in 2004. But not on the war. As long as Democrats go on bleating and whining that it’s all going horribly wrong, that 69 percent will dismiss them as pantywaists. It would make more sense to argue that Mr. Bush has done such a fabulous job on the war — Afghanistan and Iraq liberated, the Taliban gone, al Qaeda gutted, Saddam on the run, etc — that the whole antiterror thing has been pretty much wrapped up and we urgently need to get back to focusing on new federal standards for mandatory bicycling helmets, or whatever Democrats consider important these days.
I see Mr. Dean now wants to launch a major new mental health initiative. Given that he’s turned a handful of hitherto dull but sane senators into gibbering, frothing lunatics, it’s the least he could do.
Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.