Larry Kudlow
When top Bush aid Karen Hughes went on Fox News Sunday to respond to John Kerry?s charges that somehow the U.S. ?lost? Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora -- because we ?outsourced? the heavy lifting to Afghan warlords -- my ears picked up. Hughes was very clear in saying that Delta Force people, the tops in our special-ops, were in command of the operation. This marked the first real response to Kerry?s attack, which has hung around for most of this campaign.

Trouble is, the rebuttal came a little late in the game. And with all due respect to Fox?s excellent Sunday news show, only a small chunk of the electorate probably saw it.

In the Wall Street Journal on Monday, retired Gen. Michael DeLong -- Tommy Frank?s deputy in charge of the Afghanistan war at CENTCOM -- also rebutted the Kerry charge. He did so even more thoroughly than Hughes. He said the U.S. used a combination of special forces and CIA agents along with native Afghan warlords in a successful operation to dump the Taliban in a matter of weeks, ?a feat which tens of thousands of Soviet troops were unable to accomplish in a matter of years.?

The fact that free elections have just occurred in Afghanistan is clear proof that the U.S. strategy worked. So is the fact that Osama bin Laden?s weak, defensive, almost surrendering video tape proves that the U.S. has crippled the al-Qaeda network. There?s no more talk of world jihad from OBL. Instead, he basically says, ?If the U.S. leaves us alone, we?ll leave you alone.? Of course, we won?t. Eventually, the madman will be killed or captured.

Even Bush?s worst critics concede the Afghanistan saga is a brilliant success. Yet -- for some reason -- President Bush failed to respond head-on to Kerry?s ridiculous Tora Bora outsourcing charge until the very end of the campaign. Actually, the president himself hasn?t yet mentioned the involvement of Delta Force soldiers in the operation. This fact had to come from Hughes and Delong. Why the communications failure to rebut Kerry?s charges? We may never know.

These scary silences have also occurred on the economics front. All campaign long Kerry has flogged Bush on the issue of lost jobs. Using the business survey of non-farm payrolls, Kerry attacked Bush on this issue again and again. It was an effective tactic: The bipartisan blue-chip Battleground poll reports a 51 percent to 40 percent Kerry advantage on job-creation.

Larry Kudlow

Lawrence Kudlow is host of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” which airs nightly from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.