President Bush's fusillade of speeches over the past number of days have reminded us of the man we saw in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. After months of inanition, he seems to have received a shot of adrenaline.
In a speech on Sept. 6, the president came out swinging at those who have misrepresented the Guantanamo Bay detainees. "These aren't common criminals," the president declared, "or bystanders accidentally swept up on the battlefield. . . . Those held . . . include suspected bomb makers, terrorist trainers . . . and potential suicide bombers. One detainee held at Guantanamo told a questioner questioning him -- he said this: 'I'll never forget your face. I will kill you, your brothers, your mother and sisters.'"
Directly contradicting two myths about Guantanamo, the president assured the world that a) the U.S. is not practicing torture, and b) the interrogation of detainees has directly prevented a number of planned attacks. By offering names and dates, President Bush immeasurably strengthened the case -- particularly in the wake of the London plot's disclosure. ("Bush Justifies Detainee Abuse" headlined the Reuters Foundation website the next morning.)
The war in Iraq has been tough slogging, and certainly the president's approval rating was bound to wilt a bit in response. But beyond that, the president has lost his voice for the past year or so, failing to respond energetically to criticism or even to be able to change the subject. His forceful defense of detainee interrogations and request that Congress pass a law authorizing military commissions are most welcome -- but they would have been even more effective last June when the Supreme Court announced the Hamdan decision. "Energy in the Executive," Alexander Hamilton urged, "is a leading character in the definition of good government."
There is every reason to suppose that if President Bush can hold on to the momentum he is currently establishing, his approval ratings should markedly improve. Here are just a few reasons:
1) Terror. The exposure and disruption of the London plot reminds Americans that our enemies are ceaselessly planning atrocities and that strong leadership in the war on terror remains the first priority for government.
2) The revelation that Richard Armitage leaked Valerie Plame's name has blown to smithereens the Democrat/MSM fable about a White House conspiracy to "out" her in retaliation for her husband's activism. Wilson stands revealed as a liar. There was no crime. Judith Miller spent weeks in jail, and Lewis Libby faces trial -- all because the media hyped the false allegations of a publicity-seeking liar. The president should mention this in his next speech.
3) Gas prices are coming down, and a huge new U.S. supply of oil has been discovered in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
4) The economy is doing extremely well, posting 4 percent real GDP growth in the first half of 2006, and maintaining an historically low unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. Five and a half million new jobs have been created in the past three years.
5) The homicide rate in Baghdad is declining. In July, the Los Angeles Times reports, 1,800 bodies were delivered to the morgue. In August, after 8,000 U.S. and 3,000 Iraqi forces swept through the city attempting to quell sectarian violence, only a quarter of that number were killed.
6) The hurricane season was unexpectedly mild.
7) The Democrats remain the party of weakness and appeasement. Harvard hosts the ex-president of Iran. Jimmy Carter hugs Hezbollah. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says of the Iraq War: "The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, it's just plain wrong." Al Gore thinks global warming is a much more serious threat than al Qaeda. ABC is airing a mini-series that blasts the Clinton administration for malfeasance in pursuing Osama bin Laden.
Things could be a whole lot worse for President Bush and the Republicans.