The ex-president's boys

Posted: May 21, 2003 12:00 AM

Remember a while back when Bill Clinton advised Democratic presidential contenders to quit the intramural bickering and focus on their real opponent, President Bush? Apparently Clinton still carries some weight because his boys came out swinging recently.
As if attached to the former president's dangling, legacy-craving puppet strings, the boys set their sights on Bush and began firing, albeit with shoddy ammunition. Clinton probably should have told the boys at least to have something to say -- even if you have to make things up, like "this is the worst economy in 50 years" -- before opening their mouths and just talking to hear their heads rattle. They're shooting blanks and looking pretty impotent (and often ridiculous) in the process. It's all so artificial. They're expected to say something negative, and so they do, no matter how silly and off base.

 Senator John Kerry had the temerity to blame the administration for last week's terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia. "It's insufficient for this administration to say, 'We notified them, but they didn't do anything,'" said Kerry. "It's the obligation of this administration to make sure that they are doing something, and you don't do it by passing on a communication and then sitting there. You have to be engaged." For outrageousness, that one ranks right up there with Kerry's earlier statement, "We need a regime change in the United States." But there's a method to Kerry's groundless insults.

 His next statement holds the key. "The administration," said Kerry, "got overly focused on Iraq" and is in "complete disarray," as opposed to al Qaeda, which "never went out of business." Aha, they've finally got that concrete evidence they've been impatiently waiting for that the United States, and more particularly, the Bush administration, can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

 Going after nation-state sponsors of terrorism is mutually exclusive with going after terrorists themselves, and this attack proves it. Never mind that this is offensive hogwash -- this nation's security forces have done an incredible job foiling the terrorist network since 9-11. What's important is that this gives the boys a backdoor approach to attack the war against Iraq, since none of their front door approaches has gained them entry.

 Moving on, the usually decent Senator Bob Graham has joined the boys in trying to create an Achilles' heel for Bush regarding the War on Terror when none exists. He has accused the administration of covering up intelligence that could have prevented the 9-11 attacks. Of course, no one, including his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has any idea what Graham is talking about, and he won't say -- because he doesn't know either. "Now this is more like it," Clinton must be saying. "That's the way to make stuff up. I love it when you boys follow in my footsteps."

 Senator Joseph Lieberman, after reminding us for the umpteenth time that he wasn't like the rest of his feckless colleagues who opposed the war against Iraq, skewered Bush for his failure to "secure the peace" in Iraq. "In Iraq," wrote Lieberman, "shock and awe is giving way to stumble and fumble." Is this not one of the most embarrassingly predictable lines of attack in the annals of partisan politics?

 Did anyone, including Lieberman, really think we could instantly restore impeccable order following the violent overthrow of a regime that occurred inside of a month? Not a chance! But the merits of the charge don't matter. What matters is that the candidates make inroads into Bush's nearly flawless record in the War on Terror. The Democrats have slowly come to the realization that national security -- even more than the economy -- is where the action will be in 2004. Darn the bad luck. Lieberman and others mounting this specious assault should tell us whether they prefer the iron rule of law under Saddam Hussein or the inevitable bit of transitional chaos following the war.

 But alas, Bill Clinton, who offered his boys the Bush-bashing advice in the first place, better get on the same page with them. While the boys seem to be saying Bush isn't focusing enough on the War on Terror (he's too distracted with Iraq, which they don't see as part of the War on Terror), Clinton just gave a speech saying Bush is focusing too much on terror and ignoring domestic issues. "We can't be forever strong abroad if we don't keep getting better at home." Which is it, Mr. Ex-president? When you figure it out, you better tell the boys. No fair just telling them half the story.