WASHINGTON--The president demonstrated Monday night that he understands a tested political axiom: If you do not like the news, make some of your own.
He had allowed for pointless diplomacy to proceed too long, thereby dissipating some of his principal asset, his aura of serene decisiveness. He did this March 6 with his peculiar presidential speech disguised as a press conference, and then with the strange hours in the Azores. So Monday night he delivered perhaps the first presidential speech directed almost entirely at a foreign audience. At several such audiences, actually.
To Saddam Hussein, his two sons and other satraps, the president said: Get out of Dodge by sundown Wednesday.
To the incredibly inflated United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who earlier Monday had said that a war without U.N. approval would be illegitimate, the president reasserted America's ``sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security.''
To the Iraqi people, who could listen to a broadcast of a simultaneous translation of his words, he said the war is against ``the lawless men who rule your country'' with ``torture chambers and rape rooms.''
To Iraqi officers he said: ``Your fate will depend on your actions.'' Do not fight ``for a dying regime.'' And he warned that the Nuremberg defense--``I was just following orders''--would be unavailing at the war crimes trials that await officers who order the use of weapons of mass destruction ``against anyone, including the Iraqi people.''
Those last four words were crucial because, says Thomas Donnelly, a specialist in military matters for the American Enterprise Institute, ``All Saddam Hussein can do is make things ugly.'' That is, he cannot pit his military against the Allies', so he can only be consequential--prevailing is out of the question--by sowing chaos indiscriminately.
Speaking of indiscriminate chaos, many elements of the Democratic Party, including most of its base and many of its most conspicuous leaders, seem deranged, unhinged by the toxic fumes of hatred and contempt they emit for the president. From what does this arise? It cannot just be Florida, the grievance that Democrats, assiduous cultivators of victimhood, love to nurse. No, many Democrats' problem, which threatens to disqualify their party from presidential responsibilities for a generation, is their incontinent love of snobbery and nostalgia--condescension toward a president they consider ignorant, and a longing for the fun of antiwar days of yore.