- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004


Six thousand miles from Madison Square Garden, the Islamist barbarians are making a grim and eloquent case for George W. Bush.

A little more than a thousand miles from the convention floor, John F. Kerry agreed, telling the American Legion in convention assembled in Nashville, Tenn., that the terrorist scourge must remain at the top of the nation’s agenda. Continuing barbarism has put it ahead even of the bread-and-butter domestic issues, important but not nearly as important as the survival of Western civilization.

“With the right policies,” Monsieur Kerry told the Legionnaires, “this is a war we can win, this is a war we must win, and this is a war we will win.”

He gave the needle — not undeserved — to the president for his slip of the tongue earlier in the week with the remark to a television interviewer that the war on terror cannot be won.

Even as Monsieur Kerry spoke, his campaign put up a new television commercial in several battleground states accusing the president of “a failure of leadership,” citing “mounting casualties, costing $200 billion and counting. Now they call it a ‘catastrophic success.’ They say they ‘miscalculated.’ And now they say the war on terror is unwinnable.”

What the public appears to understand is that the president clearly meant that there will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of an American battleship or in a railway car in a German forest, that the war will be a twilight struggle in a thousand places where the forces of a malignant distortion of Islam take it.

The gaffe (for once the term is appropriate) might have mortally wounded any other candidate, in the way that an exhausted Gerry Ford’s famous insistence in a 1980 debate that “there is no Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe” sank his campaign. The story this time acquired no “legs” because everyone knows the war against terror is the president’s signature issue.

It’s clear enough here that if the Islamist barbarians prefer a regime change in Washington, as some have speculated, they’re going about it in a particularly stupid way. The outrages in Beersheba, where two bus bombings shattered a five-month respite from the suicide killers; in Baghdad, where 12 hapless Nepalese cooks and cleaners, including a woman, were slain for the crime of cooking and cleaning for “Christians and Jews” and for “believers in Buddha as their God”; and in a rural school in Russia, where 300 children were taken hostage by killers who threatened to barter the lives of small children in pursuit of evil aims.

The president’s gaffe did not throw the Republicans in Gotham off their game plan and on the defensive, as many Democrats expected it would. Neither did it intimidate Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of the Big Apple. He mixed a little history with a defiant coupling of George W. and the war against the terrorists.

“New York was the first capital of our great nation,” he told the delegates (and the television audience).”It was here in 1789 in Lower Manhattan that George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States. And it was here in 2001 in the same Lower Manhattan that President George W. Bush stood amid the fallen towers of the World Trade Center and said to the barbaric terrorists who attacked us, ‘They will hear from us.’

“Well, they have heard from us. They heard from us in Afghanistan, and we removed the Taliban. They heard from us in Iraq, and we ended Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror. And we put him where he belongs, in jail. They heard from us in Libya, and, without firing a shot, [Moammar] Gadhafi abandoned his weapons of mass destruction. They’re hearing from us in nations that are now much more reluctant to sponsor terrorists or terrorism.

“So long as George Bush is our president, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us?”

If that was not enough red meat, Zell Miller, the crusty Democratic senator from Georgia, served up barbecue girlie men, “who see Americans as occupiers, not liberators.”

“Like you, I ask which leader it is today who has the vision, the willpower and, yes, the backbone to best protect my family? The clear answer to that question is what placed me in this hall with you tonight. For my family is more important than my party.”

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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