Rich Tucker
The best insults are quietly devastating, such as when Winston Churchill described his successor Clement Attlee as “a modest man who has a good deal to be modest about.”

Of course it’s not easy to pull off a putdown like that. Remember when former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill described President Bush as “a blind man in a room full of deaf people?” Sure it sounded bad, but as columnist Michael Kinsley wrote, “what on Earth does it mean?”

Because it’s so difficult to craft a subtle putdown, many on the left go in a different direction. Their insults are often loud and personal. But, sadly, no less confusing than O’Neill’s attempted slam.

Here’s liberal blogger Daily Kos describing conservatives: “These blowhards pretend they are macho even as they piddle on themselves in abject terror from every ‘boo!’ that comes out of Osama bin Laden’s mouth.” In typical fashion, the post went on to make another two references to urine, giving new definition to the expression “Potty mouth.”

Kos is fired up because of the latest Washington “scandal,” over whether the Bush administration should be using its ability to monitor some communications within the United States. Like the O’Neill putdown, listening in sounds bad at first. But in reality, it makes a lot of sense.

As Vice President Dick Cheney put it this week at The Heritage Foundation, one “vital step the President took in the days following 9/11 was to authorize the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. There are no communications more important to the safety of the United States than those related to al-Qaeda that have one end in the United States.”

Cheney noted that one problem cited by the 9/11 Commission was the fact that our spy services were unable to uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists abroad. “The activities conducted under this authorization have helped to detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks against the American people. As such, this program is critical to the national security of the United States,” he said.

Of course, to believe that Cheney’s correct, you’ve probably got to believe we’re in the midst of a war. Conservatives seem to recognize that, but some on the other side aren’t so sure. As liberal moneyman George Soros wrote in September, “The war on terror as we have waged it since 9/11 has done more harm than good.”

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for