Steve Chapman

DES MOINES -- The Iowa State Fair has many things you can't find just anywhere, including a life-size butter sculpture of Harry Potter, a 1,203-pound hog, and an endless supply of deep-fried Twinkies. It also has an unlikely looking straw man, which Rudy Giuliani is pounding to smithereens.

Speaking to voters seated on bales of hay, the former New York City mayor is contrasting his approach to national security with that of Democrats. "I believe that America should be on offense against terrorism," he says, to whoops and cheers. "I do not believe that we should go back into the way we used to be, which is what I call 'on defense.' We have to use our military in a way that protects us."

You can just picture the Democrats cowering in the cellar, praying not to be attacked, while Republicans hunt down our enemies to smite them first. This is a familiar refrain from Giuliani, who habitually preaches the virtues of military strength, while accusing the other party of planning to "slash military budgets." In his view, the issue of national security is a simple choice between being powerful and assertive or weak and helpless.

But where are the Democrats who fit his dire description? Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., recently said if the United States had a chance to catch or capture Osama bin Laden by going into Pakistan, we should seize it, no matter what President Pervez Musharraf says. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., soon embraced the same position. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Obama was merely echoing him. Does that sound like going on defense?

Democratic leaders who want to reduce military spending are about as common as tuxedoes at the State Fair. In fact, left-wing critics complain that the chief presidential candidates want to spend too much. Obama and Clinton have both called for increasing our total troop strength. Likewise for Biden and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.

The call for going on offense is characteristic of Giuliani's entire foreign policy -- simple, muscular in tone and cheerfully divorced from the world we live in. His chief tactic is sounding pugnacious. But if tough talk were all we needed, the war in Iraq would be over, North Korea would be a model of decorum, and Iran would have given up its quest for nuclear weapons.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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