It is incomprehensible that Republicans are not jumping all over politicians who are calling for a telegraphed timetable for American troop withdrawal from Iraq.
It took the administration and their colleagues in Congress some two years -- and double digit reductions in the president's approval ratings -- finally to take the offense against the liars lying about the president's non-lies on Iraq. Why are they always relegated to playing catch-up?
When certain shrill partisans first leveled their accusation that Bush lied to get us into war, few paid attention, on the theory that manifestly preposterous allegations need not be refuted.
But as the incessant drumbeat against President Bush continued, steadily undermining trust in him and in the worthiness of our cause in Iraq, "mainstream" Democrats were emboldened to pile on -- even though they were brazenly exposing themselves at the same time (if Bush lied, so did they). In the sordid world of political propaganda, "crime" demonstrably pays.
One would hope that Republicans could learn a lesson from this. For when the antiwar fringe politicians first began to call for withdrawal they weren't even taken seriously. Most people instinctively knew how irresponsible their demands were.
But encouraged by their success in eroding the public's trust in the president, Democrat leaders have jumped aboard the reckless withdrawal train as well.
Just as the Bush administration has begun to fire back at the deceivers, playing tapes of their own jingoistic jabber, they proposed legislation to compel the president to establish a timetable for withdrawing troops.
The Republicans, while defeating that measure, have so far passed up an opportunity to turn the tables on their opponents by broadcasting just how grossly irresponsible this effort was. Instead, they passed a lesser bill, which they are trying to spin as a net plus for Republicans, to require the president to issue progress reports on the war.
Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with the president reporting to Congress on the war. If anything, it will give him an opportunity to present a more balanced picture of the story.
But unless Republicans get out front -- rhetorically -- on the "timetable" issue, they risk being subsumed again by the Democrats' relentless propaganda machine, which could eventually result in the United States being forced, through misinformed public opinion, to precipitously withdraw from Iraq.
Republicans must not wait for the Democrat withdrawal cacophony to resume and intensify. They must jump on the appeasers with both feet before they've had a chance to regroup.
In a sane world, it would be like shooting ducks in a barrel. The Democrats' demand for an arbitrary withdrawal timetable is utterly indefensible. Apart from the reasons we attacked Iraq initially, which we can continue the charade of debating if we must, no one within shouting distance of sanity believes Saddam's ouster was a bad result.
Once we deposed Saddam we did not abandon Iraq to allow the government void to be filled by terrorist and "insurgent" thugs opposed to Iraqi democracy and self-rule. We have been thwarting the terrorist uprising while helping the Iraqis to establish their own constitution, which they have risked their lives to do.
How can Democrats, as self-proclaimed champions of democracy, in good faith decry these developments? How can they deny that a democratized, autonomous Iraq is more conducive to a healthier, more peaceful Middle East and a safer United States?
As for withdrawing our troops, Democratic leaders are talking to hear their heads rattle (and to score political points). The Bush Administration has long been on record as being committed to turning over the defense of Iraq to Iraqi forces. Notwithstanding the carping from the other side, it is doing everything it can to expedite this transition. It is feverishly engaged in implementing this exit strategy as we speak.
But until the military commanders on the ground in Iraq, as opposed to the political opportunists and armchair generals in the United States, are satisfied that Iraqi troops are ready to assume the primary defense duties throughout Iraq, we cannot leave.
To prematurely establish an arbitrary timetable for our troop withdrawal would jeopardize the stability of the newly constituted Iraqi government, for which, in part, more than 2,000 of our soldiers have died. It would give the terrorists a victory they could never attain on the battlefield. It would reinvigorate their cause by confirming their suspicion that the American infidels lack the resolve to persevere.
Republicans must open fire with both barrels on this issue and force Democrats (and some Republicans) to explain how their insistence on a timetable is anything but suicidal to Iraq and immeasurably detrimental to the national security of the United States.