For liberals like Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, it is far worse for Vice President Dick Cheney to accuse congressional Democrats of playing into Al Qaeda's hands on Iraq than for Democrats actually to play into Al Qaeda's hands on Iraq.
It's perfectly fine for liberals to liken Bush and Cheney to Adolf Hitler or falsely accuse them of lying us into war in Iraq to steal its oil. It's perfectly fine for liberals to attribute failures in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina to alleged Republican racism.
But don't you dare question the wisdom of the Democrats' proposals on Iraq in such a way as to cause the hypersensitive to infer you were challenging their patriotism.
Apparently to Dionne and other like-minded liberals, the potential dire consequences of the Democrats' policies on Iraq are not appropriate for discussion and debate because they might make Democrats look bad, or even feel bad -- and those are far worse evils than throwing our national security in the toilet.
Precisely what did Dick Cheney -- the public servant who Democrats may, with impunity, stoop to any depths to slander -- say to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi so indignant? Well, he issued his assessment of the Democrats' legislative proposals to emasculate our current offensive in Iraq.
Cheney said, "Al Qaeda functions on the basis that they think they can break our will … " and cause us to "quit and go home. … That's their fundamental underlying strategy. … If we adopt the Pelosi policy … we will validate the strategy of Al Qaeda. I said it, and I meant it."
What's wrong with that statement? If Cheney believes the Democrats' cut and run policies will benefit Al-Qaeda, doesn't he have an obligation to warn us? Not according to Pelosi, who said Cheney was questioning her patriotism.
Not once did Cheney suggest the Democrats were unpatriotic. He said, "I didn't question her patriotism. I questioned her judgment." Likewise, President Bush recently made clear that he didn't view the Democrats' proposals to withdraw from Iraq unpatriotic.
But if accusing your political opponents of playing into the enemy's hands constitutes an attack on their patriotism, the Democrats' hands are hardly clean either.
How many times have we heard Democrats say that President Bush's policies in Iraq are the best terrorist recruitment tool we could have possibly given to Osama bin Laden? Have you ever heard President Bush whine that Democrats were questioning his patriotism? No, perhaps because Bush is quite secure about his own patriotism.
What is the administration supposed to do in the face of the Democrats' relentless campaign to undermine any possible chance of our victory in Iraq? Should it simply remain silent as congressional Democrats, more concerned with mollifying their militant antiwar base and kicking a beleaguered president in the teeth than with assuming the sober responsibility their office requires, try to engineer America's surrender and defeat?
Until very recently the Democrats have had a free ride, slamming President Bush's policy, even parts of it they approved and authorized, without offering any alternative solutions. Now that they control Congress and are presenting actual legislative proposals, they can't stand the scrutiny their plans invite.
In the midst of these partisan skirmishes, we best not lose sight of the momentousness of the issues before us. Questions about the Democrats' patriotism pale in comparison to real issues at stake in the war on terror.
What is absolutely scandalous is that we are seriously considering unilateral surrender in a war without so much as contemplating the consequences to the Middle East or to our national security.
Democrats (and some Republicans) are advocating that we leave Iraq now, refusing even to consider what might happen if we withdraw prematurely. Presidential candidate John Edwards openly admitted as much.
Surely, they recognize the strong possibility that a bloodbath will ensue, that the constitutional republic our soldiers died to make possible will implode and that America-hating Islamists could seize control of Iraq and its oil and convert it to a launching pad for international terrorism.
It is imperative we begin to have a discussion about Iraq that involves more than dwelling on the problems if we stay, but also weighs those against the even greater problems that will accompany our precipitous departure. We must have a debate whose sobriety matches the gravity of the national security issues involved.
The administration and congressional Republicans must not be intimidated by false charges of name-calling from proceeding with a public debate that will force Democrats to emerge from their hiding places to explain and justify the inevitable, devastating consequences of their reckless policies. Haven't they had a free ride long enough?