- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six years after the September 11 attacks, the Democrats running for president have drastically different ways of addressing terrorism, with one calling the war on terror a “bumper-sticker slogan.”

Most have avoided the phrase “war on terror” because Democratic primary voters consider it a Republican talking point, but Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois each have a version.

“Here in New York, nobody needs to tell us that we are in a war against terrorists who seek to do us harm,” Mrs. Clinton said in a foreign-policy address in October.

“The terrorists are at war with us,” Mr. Obama said in a major policy address last month.

As the Democrats’ 2004 vice presidential nominee, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina criticized the Bush administration for making “the wrong judgment to turn the focus away from the war on terror and the people who attacked us.”

But this time around, Mr. Edwards says the war on terror is a “slogan designed only for politics, it is not a strategy to make America safe. It’s a bumper sticker, not a plan.”

“Tragically for America and the world, George Bush’s ‘war on terror’ approach walked directly into the trap the terrorists set for us,” Mr. Edwards said Friday when announcing his plan to fight terrorism.

His objection to the phrase first surfaced this cycle at an MSNBC debate in April, when the candidates were asked: “Do you believe there is such a thing as a global war on terror?”

He adds in stump speeches an accusation that President Bush uses the “so-called ‘war on terror” ” as an excuse for “trampling on our Constitution, and most perversely, for ignoring the demands of the actual struggle that exists against terrorism.”

Mr. Edwards’ comments have drawn criticism from Republican candidates.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ridiculed Mr. Edwards as feeling “very uncomfortable” when hearing about terrorism. He said people in London and Glasgow, Scotland, where terrorist plots have been thwarted this year, would disagree with the Democrat’s assessment.

“One thing you can count on if I’m president, or any Republican is president … if there is a war being waged by the terrorists, there will be a war being waged on the terrorists,” Mr. Romney said at a Young Republicans convention in July.

For Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican presidential hopeful who was New York’s mayor on September 11, terrorism is a regular component of his campaign speech. He said Mr. Edwards’ remarks prove his stump speech point that “Democrats, or at least some of them, are in denial.”

Mrs. Clinton, who often talks about September 11 and her role as New York’s freshman senator in its aftermath, talked about a “longer-term challenge” in her October address.

“It comes down to whether we can win the war on terror, not just the battles, and that requires … putting the U.S. on the side of dignity and progress and making it clear we do oppose tyranny and violations of human rights,” she said. “In that fight, our only realistic weapons are our values and ideals.”

In a speech on Iraq in July, Mrs. Clinton pledged she would “not let down my guard against terrorism.”

“I will devote the resources we need to fight it and fight it smartly,” she added.

Mr. Obama said Mr. Bush has confused the mission against terrorism and is “fighting the war the terrorists want us to fight.”

“When I am president, we will wage the war that has to be won,” he said last month, outlining his plan to end the war in Iraq and fight terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In that Aug. 1 address, he used the words “terror,” “terrorism” or “terrorist” 46 times. Several references to the “war on terror” are on both his campaign and Senate Web sites, including a March 2006 podcast on energy independence.

“Our enemies are fully aware that they can use oil as a weapon against America,” he said. “If we don’t take this threat as seriously as the bombs they build or the guns they buy, we will be fighting the war on terror for a long, long time.”

At the MSNBC debate, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware also indicated they don’t believe in a “global war on terror.”

Mr. Biden mocked the phrase in his new book, “Promises to Keep.”

“You’re either with us, Bush liked to say of his ‘war on terror,’ or you’re against us,” Mr. Biden wrote. “I thought the approach was enormously flawed.”

Mr. Kucinich said the term has been used as “a pretext for aggressive war.” Yesterday, he voted against a congressional September 11 resolution, calling it “incomplete” and accusing Mr. Bush of lying to go to war, “conflating the true tragedy of September 11 with lies about weapons of mass destruction.”

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut did not mention the phrase Sunday night at the Univision network debate but repeated his assertion that the war has been a distraction from fighting terrorism.

“The first obligation and job of an American president is to keep this country safe and secure,” Mr. Dodd said. “We’re more vulnerable, less safe, more insecure today as a result of the presence there because we’ve turned Iraq into an incubator for jihadists and terrorists.”

Former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska also sounded off on the topic Sunday night. “Our war on terrorism makes no sense,” he said. “We’ve had terrorism since the beginning of civilization, and we’ll have it to the end of civilization.”

Democratic leaders in Congress this year opted to scrub the phrase “global war on terror” from the defense authorization bill, dismissing it as Bush rhetoric and saying instead they would be specific about fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “avoid using colloquialisms.”

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