President Bush's State of the Union Address was no barnburner. The president was serious and thoughtful, and his speech offered little in the way of rhetorical fireworks.
But if President Bush's speech was unexciting, Sen. Jim Webb's, D-Virginia, purported rebuttal was disastrous. Webb decisively demonstrated why Democrats cannot be given charge of America's foreign policy.
President Bush acknowledged that American involvement in Iraq has not gone as planned; that the sectarian violence currently wracking Iraq was hardly our goal. Nonetheless, Bush provided a realistic perspective: "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen, on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle."
Sen. Webb's response, by contrast, sounded like that of a divorced woman complaining about her ex-husband's penchant for leaving up the toilet seat. Webb spent a full 400 words, or well over 25 percent of his speech, whining about the genesis of the war in Iraq. "This country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years," Webb stated. "Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world."
Webb went on to indict President Bush for taking "us into this war recklessly" and, by extension, losing "opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism" and spilling "the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve." "We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable -- and predicted -- disarray that has followed," Webb charged.
This is political chicanery at its most scurrilous. Webb rewrites history for his own purposes here. Democrats voted in favor of action in Iraq with open eyes, just as Republicans did.
The invasion of Iraq has been correctly characterized as the longest telegraphed punch in the history of warfare. It was openly debated for months, and that followed a decade of debate about what to do with Saddam Hussein. There was no reckless "rush to war." Nor was the war in Iraq a lost opportunity to defeat international terrorism. Al Qaeda is particularly active in Iraq, viewing Iraq as a central front in its war against Western civilization.