- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney is at it again. Once again, the self-proclaimed “enforcer” is shooting recklessly, arrogantly disparaging the patriotism of those who oppose the continued escalation of troops in Iraq. While most Americans express lingering doubts over U.S. ability to end the sectarian violence in the near future, Mr. Cheney has taken aim at two new targets in the House: Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania.

In a recent statement, the vice president said, “If we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we do is validate the al Qaeda strategy. The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people.” There you have it. If you don’t go along with the Bush administration’s failed strategy to extricate ourselves from the middle of a civil war, you’re a traitor.

And if you question the administration’s plans to spend yet more money on so-called Iraqi reconstruction efforts, you might as well sign up for a terrorist camp. While you’re at it, please do not question our troops because it just might demoralize them.

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Can you imagine demoralizing our troops? They are the toughest, most well-trained in the world. Does anyone buy this idea that they lie in their cots at night fretting about whether some politician disagrees with the administration’s escalation plan? Please. I would guess that’s at the very bottom of the list of things they worry about. They have a job. They have a mission, and they do it well. And we’re proud of their service to the country. End of story.

Such hubris, but what can you expect from a vice president who once said on national television that our troops would be “greeted as liberators?” What can you expect from a vice president who continues to believe he knows best and the rest of us are deadbeat citizens unwilling to fight the enemy and dodging our responsibilities to protect our country?

With all due respect to the vice president, when it comes to courage and bravery, I would prefer to be in a foxhole with Jack Murtha. When it comes to standing up for our Constitution and the rule of law, I would prefer to stand by the side of the gavel-bearing Mrs. Pelosi.

Mrs. Pelosi, to her credit, did not take kindly to this latest insult on the patriotism of 246 lawmakers, including 17 Republicans who stood up with integrity last week and voted to reject Mr. Bush’s escalation proposal. The feisty speaker placed a long-distance call directly to Mr. Cheney’s boss, with an appeal that he “repudiate and distance” himself from the vice president’s remarks.

Mr. Bush, who was out traveling the country, was unavailable, and Josh Bolten, his Chief of Staff, took down the message. Her message was simple: “To question the patriotism of those in Congress who challenge the Bush administration’s misguided policies in Iraq is beneath the office of the vice president, especially at a time of war.” Precisely. But look at the record.

This White House and its allies have implemented a strategy of viciously attacking the patriotism and in some cases the “fitness” to serve of those who may disagree with the administration’s political goals and tactics for winning the war on terror. Their weapon of choice is to label critics of the war in Iraq as unpatriotic.

At times, they substitute the term “unpatriotic” with phrases accusing critics of “encouraging our enemies,” but, when challenged, they back down, just as White House spokeswoman Dana Perino did the other day.

Miss Perino, during a briefing with reporters, was asked about the vice president’s comments. While acknowledging Mrs. Pelosi’s call to the president, she added: “The vice president was not in any way questioning anyone’s patriotism. He was questioning the strategy. … and Pelosi’s and Murtha’s plan is one that would not help secure our country and would leave the region in chaos.”

Wow. Miss Perino would like us to believe the administration supports critics’ right to express their views. However, this administration’s record proves otherwise. Whenever there is a conflict, the administration regresses to schoolyard taunts of “you’re either with us or you’re abetting the enemy.”

For now, there are some people who believe the administration supports critics’ right to express their views, but I am not one of them.

This administration’s record of attacking its critics’ motives and purporting that any strategy other than a given plan proposed by the White House would aid and embolden our enemies is out of line.

The vice president was clearly out of line, and Mrs. Pelosi is right to call his bluff. The best way to support our troops is to unite our country behind a strategy that will bring them home as soon as is feasible.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR and former campaign manager for Al Gore.

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