Column No. 125 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - OCTOBER 12, 2006

Last month House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi traded barbs with Republican Rep. John Boehner.  She had criticized the Bush 9/11 speech as inappropriately political.  She called Boehner's criticism “cynical tactics.’”  (Kind of fits with his current tactics in dealing with the Foley Scandal.)  “Rather than try to defend their own failed record,” Pelosi said, “Republicans have resorted to the desperation politics of fear. . . . It is long past time for Republicans to be honest with the American people [sic] and stop questioning the patriotism of those who recognize that the president's Iraq policy has not worked, is making us less safe and must be changed."  Tough words for a Democratic leader.  Unfortunately, the Congressional Democrats, with a few notable exceptions, were totally cowed by the Republican “Defeatocrats” assault when it came to the passage of the US Enabling Act on Sept. 29, 2006.  (See my column on the latter subject that appeared on BuzzFlash on October 2, 2006.  I will be treating the same subject at more length in this space on October 26 and Nov. 2, 2006.)

However, while the Democrats are getting better, even with the disastrous retreat on The US Enabling Act, they are still working on the defensive side of the line.  The truly “muscular” Democratic position would be neither “we can do these people one better” nor “we are too patriots,” nor “how dare you?’  It would be to set our agenda, which means a) ignoring Rove’s and b) always attacking, never defending (a major part of which is indeed setting the agenda).  Here is a list of attack points, followed by a short list of positive proposals.  By the way, some of these will actually be considered “tough.”  (Oh, my!)  Yes, being truly tough would be unusual for Democrats, but when Republicans in the Congress make speeches saying the Democrats who do not support Bush’s open-ended Iraq policy are supporters of terrorists, well . . . .

Bush is in trouble, more of it than ever.  The list is well-known to readers of TPJ.  So now is absolutely the time to attack him where the Privatized Ministry of Propaganda keeps telling us that he is the strongest, but he really is the Emperor without clothes.  He ain’t strong.  He’s weak.  He’s a loser.  He is sacrificing our nation’s strength, its honor, and its Constitution for the benefit of the massive corporations that put him and his puppet-master Cheney in power.  Let’s go for it.

1.   Protecting the nation from terrorism?  9/11 happened on Bush’s watch, despite ample warnings.  Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor warned Rice.  Richard Clarke tried to warn Bush.  There was the starkly worded August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing from the CIA.  There were the myriad FBI warnings about the flight “students” not caring about taking off or landing, only flying level.  There were the Air Defense mess-ups on 9/11 itself.  There was Ashcroft turning down an FBI request for $800 million in additional funds to fight terrorism --- on 9/10/06.

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9/11 Commission, speaking out (finally) recently, put it succinctly: You were warned by the CIA. You knew in July they were inside the United States. You were told again by briefing officers in August that it was a dire threat. Didn't do anything to harden our border security. Didn't do anything to harden airport security. Didn't do anything to engage local law enforcement. Didn't do anything to round up INS and the consular office, and say we have to shut this down, and didn't warn the American people. What did you do? Nothing so far as we can see “(Allen Roland, “The Great 9/11 Cover-up, 9/26/06).

Protecting the nation from terrorism?  Hah!  Why should we trust you with that task?

2.      In the two initiatives he took, Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush has proved to be a loser.  Both wars are going badly, and it appears that they can only get worse, both for us and for the peoples of those two nations.  In the 2000 Campaign, Bush said that he would not follow Clinton’s footsteps on “nation building.”  Boy, was he right.  He hasn’t.  Bush is a loser.

3.      If the Georgites did not mis-lead about the reasons for going into Iraq, as the recent report of the Senate Intelligence Committee showed, they were totally incompetent in handling the intelligence information about what the true situation was.

4.       As an increasing number of retired US generals are telling us, the Georgites have depleted and weakened our armed services in fighting two wars for which it is ill-equipped and not properly trained.

5.       They have turned the world against us (see Pew Research international poll from early summer 2006).

6.       According the recent National Intelligence Estimate, they have created large numbers of new terrorists, not reduced their ranks.

7.       They have done very little to strengthen homeland security and what they have done has been only grudgingly undertaken in response to repeated Congressional prodding.  (Yes, the Republican Congress does do the right thing, on very rare occasions.)

8.        They are totally incompetent in handling natural disasters.  They could be even worse in handling man-made ones.

9.         They have depleted the national treasury by going to war on borrowed money while making the nation’s rich even richer with their ever-expanding tax cuts.

10.        They love military solutions to problems that cannot be solved using the military.

11.        Safer now than five years ago?  That’s a laugh.  Just consider: rising troop deaths, declining military strength (except for nukes and very expensive, highly profitable weapons systems that are of absolutely no use against the kind of insurgency we face in Iraq.)  Moribund Constitutional  Democracy.  Wasn’t it once that “they hate because of our way of life, freedom and all that?”  Well destroying “freedom and all that right here at home is one to deal with terrorism, they might argue: remove the cause [ho, ho, ho] and the terrorists will just go away.)  And now all of that’s gone?  The growing, reborn Afghani insurgency, plus the largest heroin crops ever.   Osama’s still out there.  N. Korean nukes.  Iranian nukes.  A government built on lies, corruption, hypocrisy, cover-ups and incompetence (from Iraq to New Orleans)

12.        Finally, as Allen Roland has put it: (Allen Roland, “Staying the Course is Moral Suicide,” 9/30/06): “How can we stay the course on a path that was initiated from a place of lies, deception and moral pretentiousness? How can we stay the course of an illegal occupation where over 80% of Iraqis want us out and are actively supporting their freedom fighters ~ yes, freedom fighters. If the American military presence in the region lasts another four years, the total outlay for the war could stretch to more than $1.3 trillion, or $11,300 for every household in the United States.

The people are on our side.  Bush has got the Congress, is getting the Courts or getting them out of the way, and has O’RHannibaugh and the rest of his Privatized Ministry of Propaganda.  But we’ve got the 60% or more of the American people who believe, know, that Bush’s policies are wrong, dead wrong, for themselves and for the country.  Let’s have the Democrats respond to that fact, not PMOP’s incessant screaming, and the hysterical Coulterite charges of “traitor” coming the (s)elected Georgites.

Finally, some Democrats say, “oh but there is the sound bite problem.”  In a recent speech before the Reserve Officers Association, Bush shouted: "You don't increase terrorism by fighting terrorism.”

A friend commented:  “Good line.  Punchy.  A classic sound bite. Meaningless, also. The counter argument is, ‘You increase insurgency, discontent, and turmoil exponentially when you declare, erroneously, insurgents to be terrorists and then fight them ineptly.’  But that is not a good sound bite (the President's preferred way of thinking).  The strength of the statement in the para above is that it is rational and accurate.  The weakness of the statement, in terms of its having any impact on True Believers, is that it is rational and accurate.”

Well, some folks give up too easily.  Here are a few sound bites for you.

"This Administration has never fought terrorism.  It's about time we started."

"You don't fight terrorism be creating terrorists."

"You don't fight terrorists by destroying countries."

Then there's this one:  "Cut and run?"  How about "Stay and drown."

It's not the phrases that are tough.  It's deciding to attack instead of defend that's tough.

(This column is based in part on the aforementioned BuzzFlash column and in part on my June 29, 2006 TPJ column "Ideas for Democrats VI: Attack on Defense, II.”)