Last week, President Bush and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, in speeches one day apart, appeared to have rediscovered an ingredient the absence of which has contributed to the administration's falling poll numbers: offense.
In a Veterans Day speech in Tobyhanna, Pa., President Bush took on his critics who have said he lied about intelligence to justify deposing Saddam Hussein. While acknowledging it is "perfectly legitimate" to criticize his conduct of the war, the president said, "Some Democrats and anti-war critics are claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs."
The president said the stakes in the global war on terror are too high "and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges." He said too many of his critics are "deeply irresponsible" and sending the wrong signal to America's enemy and to U.S. troops.
Democrats reacted immediately, accusing the president of using Veterans Day to politicize the war. What have they been doing the other 364 days of the year, if not trying to undermine the war effort by playing politics and contributing to disunity, thus encouraging the enemy?
In his speech to the Federalist Society on Nov. 10, Rove gave a brief history of the consequences of judicial activism and how it has violated the separation of powers clause of the Constitution and contributed to disrespect for the courts and the law.
He noted the changes to the courts that were made in Texas when citizens realized their will and constitution were being frustrated because of "millions of dollars from a handful of wealthy personal injury trial lawyers" that were "poured into (Texas) Supreme Court races to shift the philosophical direction of the Court." He noted the court "earned the reputation as 'the best court that money could buy.' '"
Alabama, he said, faced a similar situation when the state legislature passed tort-reform legislation in 1987. "However," noted Rove, "activist judges on the trial lawyer-friendly state Supreme Court struck it down, prompting a period of 'jackpot justice' through the mid-1990s, where the median punitive damage award in Alabama reached $250,000 - three times the national average. Time magazine labeled Alabama 'tort hell.' "
At the federal level, Rove cited a few recent rulings - The Ninth Circuit Court's declaration that "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional and the dismissal by a federal judge of a 10-count indictment against hard-core pornographers on grounds that the federal obscenity law violated the pornographer's right to privacy, "despite the fact that popularly-elected representatives in Congress had passed the obscenity laws and that the pornographers distributed materials with simulations where women were raped and killed."
What these two speeches have in common is their aggressive tone. Before demagoguery became the primary product of contemporary politics, we once saw more politicians battling it out with the opposition instead of the namby-pamby, feel-good, kumbayah, can't-we-all-get-along approach that is as palatable as cold oatmeal. Why haven't we heard more of this rhetoric from the administration instead of the unattainable objective of "changing the tone in Washington"?
The Bush and Rove speeches should signal a new battle strategy for the administration. Here's something else that would help: expose more Americans to the gratitude of the Iraqi people. Visit www.theotheriraq.com. The Web page features Kurds thanking America. Why have their voices not been heard on American news broadcasts and in major newspapers?
Some of these grateful people should be brought to the United States for a "Thank You America" event. Let the Democrats tell the liberated Iraqis they should not have been freed from the clutches of Saddam Hussein.
It's time to play hardball with the left and this would be a good first pitch. Offense wins football games and wars. It also shapes public opinion. Stack this political offense with more of the type of rhetoric used last week by President Bush and Karl Rove.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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