Whatever the president is doing in private (and one hears he is finally reconceptualizing the nature of the war on terror, which is vital, if overdue) -- certainly he is not publicly keeping the nation, or Washington politicians, focused on the daunting challenges and need for re-establishing an urgent pace.
It may turn out to be the second tragedy of our time that the president's opposition has criticized him from the weak side of the war effort. If a Democrat had been president on Sept. 11, it is a virtual certainty that the Republican Party (in recent generations the more aggressive military party) would have kept up a daily barrage for the president to do more. They would be howling at the fact that only 5 percent of the cargo containers entering our country's ports are inspected on or before arrival by American inspectors.
They would be chastising a notional Democratic president for not building up the size of the active and reserve forces of our military. They would surely have held hearings demanding that the Pentagon explain how it would actually invade and occupy, say, Syria, Iran and Pakistan, while also holding Iraq and Afghanistan and fulfilling all the other worldwide responsibilities we have assigned to our troops, with the current strength levels -- should such actions be judged necessary for our national security.
But as there is a Republican president, his fellow Republicans have instinctively kept their criticisms muted. More importantly, the opposition party, the Democrats (in recent generations the party less concerned with military strength and aggressive defense of the country) instinctively chose to run the 2004 presidential campaign by criticizing President Bush's boldness and aggression in fighting the war, rather than criticizing the inadequacy of his fighting and his defensive preparation efforts. (Only a Joe Lieberman candidacy would have challenged Mr. Bush from the strong side of the war effort.)
This unfortunate constellation of political forces has tended to push Washington policy toward passivity, rather than assertiveness, toward delay, rather than urgent action. Regretfully, public attitudes have followed Washington's political divide.
Thus do we find Washington focused on extraneous party matters, and a public that fails to call its politicians back to their urgent central duties.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.