- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently suggested that if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2008, America would be at risk for another terrorist attack. Pity a politician who cannot say what he or she truly believes so instead must resort to red-hot rhetoric to divide Americans even further.

Please, please go away with all this red meat so early in the presidential season. It’s time for real leaders to take command of the situation we find ourselves in overseas and come up with a strategy that will ensure our soldiers can return home sooner than when the clock runs out on the current administration.

While Congress is debating a phased redeployment of our troops in Iraq, Mr. Giuliani has the nerve to recycle a dated and misused chapter from the Republican election-year playbooks of 2002 and 2004 to distract conservative voters from his real record on social issues like abortion, homosexual rights, immigration and gun control. I hope the president and vice president will do better than the current Republican front-runner and avoid replaying their old hits of fear, fright and fiction.

The American people deserve cooler heads and common-sense solutions to help get our troops safely out of Iraq while maintaining a presence there to help control the border, defeat all remnants of al Qaeda and assist the Iraqi government with forging a political solution. I wonder what “America’s Mayor” thinks about Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki telling the United States that it cannot build a security fence to help safeguard our troops and the Iraqi people they are trying to protect? Perhaps Mr. Giuliani should direct his rhetoric to the Iraqi leaders to motivate them to resolve their urgent political problems.

Contrary to the mayor’s views and Vice President Dick Cheney’s sizzling rhetoric about claims of a “surrender date,” the Democratic proposal as Rhode Island’s Sen. Jack Reed said, “sets a goal for a phased, sensible redeployment and focuses the mission of those troops in Iraq on training the Iraqi army, hunting down terrorists, and protecting U.S. forces and diplomats.”

There is no date drawn in the sand. There is no “white flag” being raised as White House spokeswoman Dana Perino stated last week. In fact, there is a date waiver available to the president if he needs it for “vital American interests.” There is also a clear emphasis on setting benchmarks for the Iraqi politicians to meet in order to maintain our continued support.

That doesn’t sound like surrender or abandoning the Iraqis to me, and it doesn’t sound like it to the American people. Perhaps the president will have a chance to actually read what Congress has proposed, rather than simply playing cowboy at the OK Corral. Now is the time for President Bush to give a serious and intense look at what Congress has actually proposed and hold the veto pen until he understands it.

The other day, I heard Gen. David Petraeus say the war will likely “get harder before it gets easier.” Gen. Petraeus, the author of our counterinsurgency strategy, also said he’s “never seen anything like ,” and this comes from a man who has witnessed battle unlike the armchair pundits that appear on talk shows with stacks of talking points from party headquarters. It’s time they listen to the American people.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken in mid-April, the vast majority of Americans have lost faith in the president’s plans for victory in Iraq. Fifty-six percent would like to see the country set a deadline for troop withdrawal, versus 37 percent who want to “stay the course.” Only “1 in 8 Americans believes the war in Iraq has improved” since the president launched the new surge strategy. Clearly, the president is not impressed with these numbers, but at some point, someone over in the White House should acknowledge people are demanding we bring our soldiers home.

And its not just Democrats who think we need to get a grip: Americans of all stripes believe there’s a need for a change in the president’s Iraq policy. But instead of listening to the respected voices of the Iraq Study Group Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gen. Paul Eaton and Gen. John Batiste (to name a few) the president and his party persist in pursuing a “stay the course at any cost” strategy.

The time has come for the Iraqi people to settle their differences without our troops serving as referees while Iraqi sectarian factions settle old (many centuries-old) scores. The time has come for cooler heads to exert leadership here at home and to help bring our country together. Someone should pull Mr. Giuliani aside and tell him this is a new electoral season and that old fiery, divisive rhetoric won’t move us closer to victory in Iraq.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and National Public Radio and the former campaign manager for Al Gore.

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