Charles Krauthammer

``There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.'' --Sen. Edward Kennedy on Iraq, Sept. 18, 2003

WASHINGTON-- The Democrats have long been unhinged by this president. They could bear his (Florida-induced) illegitimacy as long as he was weak and seemingly transitional. But when post-9/11 he became a consequential president -- reinventing American foreign policy and dominating the political scene -- they lost it.

Kennedy's statement marks a new stage in losing it: transition to derangement. As such, it merits careful parsing:

(1) Imminent threat? How many times does one have to repeat this: When Bush laid out the case for the war in his 2003 State of the Union address, he deliberately denied imminent threat. ``Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent,'' he explained, but this president disagreed. The entire assumption underlying the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption is that Sept. 11 taught us that we live in a world where the enemy is too stealthy, his capacity for destruction too great, and the margin for error too small to permit the traditional luxury of waiting for imminence.

Indeed, in the U.N. speech one year ago that launched us on the road to war, Bush spoke not of a ``clear and present danger,'' the traditional formulation of imminence, but of a ``grave and gathering danger,'' an obvious allusion to Churchill's two-decade-long ``gathering storm.''

(2) Texas? A lovely and telling geographic tic, betraying the Massachusetts liberal's regional prejudice. For a president to unleash an unnecessary, cynical war he needs to be as far removed as possible from sanity (Hyannisport?). You head south and west -- to redneck country -- to plan your killings.

(3) Good politically? There are a host of criticisms one might level at Bush's decision to go to war -- that it was arrogant, miscalculated, disdainful of allies, lacking in foresight, perhaps even contrary to just-war principles. I happen not to agree with these criticisms. But they can be reasonably and honorably made. What cannot be reasonably and honorably charged, however, is that Bush went to war for political advantage.

On the contrary, this war was an enormous -- and blindingly obvious -- political risk. It was clear that if America failed either in the conduct of the war itself (a bloody Battle of Baghdad, for example) or in the aftermath (a failure of reconstruction), Bush would be deeply wounded politically.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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