Jewish World Review June 12, 2002/ 2 Tamuz 5762

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Gephardt to the rescue


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | George W. Bush got lucky last week. Despite the numerous screwups by him and his administration-and I'd put his messy primetime speech on June 6 about the creation of a Dept. of Homeland Security cabinet post front and center-the President hit the jackpot when Dick Gephardt announced his support for an invasion of Iraq. The House's Minority Leader has rarely struck many as a shrewd political operator. He's failed to take back his chamber in three successive elections; Tom Daschle and the opportunistic 2004 Democratic presidential contenders (say howdy to Sen. John Edwards) have trumped him in headlines; and he's been dumped as a largely irrelevant relic by the Beltway media.

But that changed with a 45-minute speech on June 4, in which Gephardt said, "I share the President's resolve to confront this menace head-on. We should use diplomatic tools where we can, but military means when we must to eliminate the threat [Saddam Hussein] poses to the region and our own security." Gephardt, who disgracefully voted against former President Bush's action against Iraq in the Gulf War in 1991, is clearly burnishing his hawk credentials for a presidential campaign, but personal ambition notwithstanding, his remarks effectively signaled that Congress won't interfere with the President's expected move against Iraq later this year. And, for good measure, Gephardt dismissed Yasir Arafat and said the United States should "remain steadfast in our support of Israel, in words and deeds."

As the New York Post's John Podhoretz wrote on June 7, Bush's rushed address on homeland security was a "rhetorical egg." Yes, he succeeded in taking back the momentum from Congress on the issue, crowding out that same day's testimony by lame-duck FBI chief Robert Mueller and every liberal's heroine Coleen Rowley, but that's inside politics. Americans, most of whom probably didn't even see Bush's worst speech in memory, don't want to hear about bureaucratic reshuffling and partisan turf wars. They don't particularly care if Tom Ridge wins the new cabinet post-my bet is no-and have no interest in organizational flow charts or whom the Coast Guard's chief will now report to.

It's a mystery why Bush buried his brilliant commencement address at West Point on June 1, in which he effectively batted down DC Cassandras who loudly complained that he was going to give Hussein a pass. Last Thursday, he could've devoted 45 minutes to his current strategy on the war against terrorism, reiterating what he told the graduating cadets, and then tacking on a brief summary of his governmental changes.

Gephardt in a familiar pose

Bush said that Saturday: "The attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men. All of the chaos and suffering they caused came at much less than the cost of a single tank... The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology, when that occurs even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations.

"Our enemies have declared this very intention and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us or to harm us or to harm our friends. And we will oppose them with all our power. For much of the last century Americans' defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking.

"Deterrence, the promise of massive retaliation against nations, means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties and then systematically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize we will have waited too long." That's the stuff of a primetime national address.

Bush also has to fire several people in short order. He can't clean house until after the midterm elections-when loose-lipped Andy Card, Christie Whitman, Paul O'Neill, Bono (oops, not a cabinet member) and Spencer Abraham will probably walk the plank-but getting rid of the CIA's George Tenet, Mueller and Norman Mineta, who refuses to profile airline passengers, is essential. As in: today.

BURN, BABY, BURN!

Can you think of a U.S. location that tops San Francisco as the worst place on Earth? I wouldn't want to live in Buffalo (too much snow and depression) or Vermont (Bernie Sanders and James Jeffords), but the Bay Area is cursed by violent natural disasters, urine-stained bums on the street, the small city of Berkeley, prohibitive housing prices and political groupthink that champions Noam Chomsky as an American Big Thinker.

And the daily newspapers stink.

One excerpt and you get idea. The San Francisco Chronicle's Mark Morford had a doozy of a column on June 7, headlined "Is It OK to Hate Bush?" Granted, you can find this kind of trash in New York and Los Angeles, but at least most writers there can marry two sentences and a thought.

Morford, apparently a Cynthia McKinney-like conspiracist, wrote: "Ashcroft has scowled about it and Rumsfeld has squinted angrily about it and Cheney has shown twitching signs of life about it and it's been made very clear again and again: You are not allowed to openly abhor the president or his decisions because doing so clearly indicates traitorous inclination and this is wartime which is a Very Difficult Time for Us All.

"If you insist on calling it wartime, that is. Which of course it's not, given how we've killed untold thousands of barely armed Taliban and untold numbers of innocent Afghani civilians and over a dozen of our own soldiers and even some Canadian troops (whoops) and we have suffered exactly two combat casualties. This is not a war. But you can't really say that either...

"Yet you can't believe Bush is truly a man of nuanced intelligence [like Morford, of course] because that implies that he probably did know something about the possibility of a terrorist attack and how it could fortify his political career, but you can't call him flagrantly stupid because that's unpatriotic and un-American and embarrassing, and hence you're just left with this feeling of unease and vague despondency about the nation's overall direction and whatever happened to your civil liberties."

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but it would appear Morford's civil liberties are intact, even if he can't comprehend that this 21st-century war bears no resemblance to those of the past and is potentially more catastrophic. Had this moron's column been printed during the administration of Lincoln or Wilson, say, he'd be in jail right now, along with "untold numbers" of fellow hack word-processors who are employed by third-tier newspapers. Maybe I've missed a bulletin, but the only assault on the First Amendment has been waged by pro-Palestinian dailies like The New York Times and Washington Post in their endless bleating for unconstitutional campaign finance reform.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith