- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

“Ah, there’s good news tonight,” was Gabriel Heatter’s signature radio phrase during the darkest days of World War II. Heatter said he learned listeners were encouraged by that upbeat phrase during some very bad periods in the war, so he continued it. His emphasis on the bright side actually helped the country.

Except for a few eccentric voices from the past, like Paul Harvey’s, there is nothing like that today. Most news reports are spun to match the political proclivities of media people who, according to polls, vote 90 percent Democrat. When a Republican is president, it’s all bad news, all the time. (Statistics compiled by media watchdogs consistently bear this out.)

Currently powerless in both the executive and legislative branches, Democrats have become the party of “bad news tonight.” Even if the news isn’t truly bad, they and the media try to make it seem like disaster and ruin.

Has unemployment risen? A Page One story will trumpet it, along with pathetic stories of people out of work, lacking health insurance and losing their homes. (President Bush will receive his customary drubbing.) Has unemployment actually fallen? A 2-inch story which does not mention Mr. Bush is buried on Page C-28.

Mr. Bush and his advisers are tearing their hair over “getting no credit” for a strong economy. This puzzles many economists, but I believe they are overlooking how the war sours outlooks. Individuals and businesses are cautious about investing or building for the future because the war remains unresolved. My parents said World War II was a daily reality during that era. Whatever you did, there was the war. It wasn’t clear we would win.

Today, many people can ignore the war for days — even weeks — at a time. Yet it disturbs us at some level because it’s unfinished. Democrats have recognized war can make a booming economy seem lackluster and discouraging. Their bad-news drum drowns out the positive economic data.

Of course, the war itself is a fabulous bad news generator for Democrats. Nightly TV images of violence and death are ugly and disturbing. Sensing they might win control of the Congress because the public is upset over the war, the Democrats have cast off all pretense of “linking arms at the water’s edge” in the role of the loyal opposition. As the election nears, charges are flying:

The war is “a mess”, it’s unwinnable; it’s a civil war, it’s the wrong war, it’s Vietnam II. We can’t catch Osama; it doesn’t matter if we catch him. Mr. Bush is an idiot; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is incompetent; they’re all liars. Dick Cheney started the war and wants to keep it going for Haliburton. Jihadists have legitimate aims; we’re no better than they are; they’re everywhere; we can’t stop them, etc.

The “blogosphere” abounds with hate-spewing Web sites whose writers actually seem willing to lose the war just to harm George W. Bush and the Republicans.

The current rage is to charge Mr. Rumsfeld with having made “mistakes”. (Liberal historians say no other official ever made a mistake in a war.) In an August Senate hearing, Sen. Hillary Clinton roasted Mr. Rumsfeld for errors in judgment and faulty predictions. She demanded his resignation, asking, “Why should we believe anything you say?”

Obviously I jest about previous American war leaders making no mistakes. Our previous wars — mostly run by Democrats — have abounded with mistakes. Some were disastrous. Although war is often compared with football, I realize how much tennis resembles war. Even the greatest players make many mistakes — often at key moments in a match. If they went to pieces over every error, they couldn’t continue. Instead, they retain composure, keep driving the ball, and try to make fewer errors than the opponent. The match usually goes to the player who endures.

War is so much like that. Mistake after mistake results from inadequate intelligence or faulty reading of it, or misjudgment of the enemy’s strength, resolve, and intentions. People fail at all levels. Plans can be poorly made or improperly executed. Equipment might be inadequate. Any experienced soldier will agree foul-upsnafus and bungling are inevitable in war. The winner is the side that persevered despite its mistakes.

Part of me worries Americans are too inexperienced with waging protracted war to know mistakes are common. But another part believes we are smarter than this. Hopefully, many of us realize winning is a matter of overcoming mistakes.

The mistakes, the deaths and injuries, the instability of Iraq, the widening engagement of jihadist forces, the pusillanimity of Europe — all these are part of the almost deafening bad-news drumbeat on the war. We shall see if it stampedes voters into throwing out the GOP and quitting Iraq.

The verdict comes in November. Mr. Bush isn’t running, so the question is whether 535 districts and 17 states will elect representatives and senators who will put Democrats on top and pull us out of Iraq. Call it wishful thinking, but I doubt it. Campaigning on bad news and hoping your opponent’s government will fail — indeed, trying to make it fail — are not long-term winning strategies. What Democrats offer is: “I’m sick of the war, the economy stinks, and George Bush is an idiot.” Some vision. Hopefully, voters dumb enough to buy it won’t be voting.

Millions of voters will soon ask themselves, “Do I really want to vote for a party that will raise my taxes, keep gas expensive, trash my personal values (including marriage), protect terrorists’ rights, and bail on Iraq before the job is done there?”

Americans are smart people. I’m confident about how they will answer.




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