Saturday, September 20, 2003

Last weekend at Fed Ex Field, just outside the nation’s capital, the self-styled all-American rock ‘n’ roller Bruce Springsteen played one of his marathon sessions to an enthusiastic crowd. They were approving, that is until “the Boss” interrupted his performance to complain about domestic politics and the war on terror.

Mr. Springsteen informed the crowd that people of all political stripes attend his concerts and everybody is welcome — “with the exception of Dick Cheney.” Mr. Springsteen has banned the vice president of the United States from his concerts — not that Mr. Cheney would go anyway — because he is part of an administration Mr. Springsteen accuses of “playing with the truth during wartime.”

Mr. Springsteen is so upset that George W. Bush is actually attacking the terrorists that he announced to the crowd, “it’s time to impeach the president and replace him with the ‘Big Man,’ ” referring to his long-time saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

No thanks, Bruce, the American people have already suffered through one saxophone-playing president.

Mr. Springsteen’s tirade is part of the echo chamber emanating from the presidential campaign trail in which Democrat candidates are using hateful and craven rhetoric to attack the president and his efforts to defend Americans from terrorism.

Dick Gephardt calls the president a “miserable failure,” and Al Sharpton calls him a “gang leader.” They carp about “quagmire,” whine about “winning the peace” and insist America’s fate in the war on terrorism should be turned over “to the U.N. and the international community.”

Three days after Mr. Springsteen’s tirade, Democrats on Capitol Hill were singing the same song. Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California at his side, now claims he was duped into voting for the war and demands that “somebody has to be held responsible” for what he now perceives as a good idea gone bad.

Who should be held responsible — Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, who has won two wars in two years, or Attorney General John Ashcroft, who, unlike Janet Reno, actually is taking steps to capture and incarcerate terrorists? The United States is engaged in a war on terrorism — a war that started long before September 11, 2001. And while that war may not be pretty (no war is), President Bush and his team are actually fighting it — unlike his predecessor.

And so the criticisms of presidential wannabes and Hollywood elites beg the question: Do you really want to return to the days of Bill Clinton when the United States refused to participate in a war that was being foisted upon us?

Mr. Clinton’s initiation to the evils of terrorism came early in his tenure. About a month after his inauguration — on Feb. 26, 1993 — terrorists rented a van, packed it with more than 2,000 pounds of explosives, and parked it in the garage of the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000. Their goal was to bring down the building and murder tens of thousands of Americans. And Bill Clinton’s response was to “discourage the American people from overreacting.”

We know Mr. Clinton did not overreact. He went back to the bungling and fumbling of his administration — trying repeatedly to nominate an attorney general sans a “nanny problem.” We wound up with “Fireball” Janet Reno. Miss Reno immediately went to work to teach the terrorists a lesson — a lesson in death and destruction, that is. And she used the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, as her tutorial.

In the immediate aftermath of a major terrorist attack on American soil, Bill Clinton’s attorney general directed the attention of the FBI, Justice Department and media on a barn in Waco where 80 people, including 25 children, would be killed in a conflagration.

Bill Clinton’s response to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City was to blame it on conservative radio talk show hosts.

The constant distractions of the Whitewater controversy, among others, in 1995 and 1996 prevented Mr. Clinton from doing much about the terrorist attacks that killed 26 people and injured nearly 600 on Nov. 13, 1995, in Riyadh and June 25, 1996, at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

On Aug. 7, 1998, terrorists attacked U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing more than 300 and injuring more than 5,000. Then, three days after Bill Clinton went on national television to finally admit he did have sexual relations with “that woman,” he further depleted our precious supply of cruise missiles by attacking a tent camp in Afghanistan and an aspirin factory in Khartoum.

Then came the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000, which killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others. The Clinton administration treated the attack more like a bank robbery in Peoria than an act of war against our nation. That would explain why for days after the attack, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright insisted we were “unable to state with certainty that this was a terrorist attack.”

Bruce Springsteen and his liberal cronies may not like it, but in George W. Bush, America has a commander in chief who will ensure the safety of the nation and her citizens. After all, Bruce, when it comes to the war on terrorism, Bill Clinton’s theme was “Born to Run,” but George W. Bush’s is “No Surrender.”

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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