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Jewish World Review March 11, 2002 / 24 Adar, 5762

Tony Snow

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Consumer Reports

Musings -- The issue of welfare reform is back, after a six-year hiatus.

President Bush is filling out his vision of compassionate conservatism by demanding that our welfare laws encourage two things: Marriage and work.

The idea predictably has provoked yelps of complaint from welfare organizations that make their money by receiving grants and dispensing occasional checks -- but the president has it right. The best kind of welfare is temporary. The longer people stay on the dole, the more they become mired in poverty and self-hatred.

Common sense and research tell us that people escape poverty when they have jobs and believe they can build a better future for themselves; that kids have a much better chance of happiness and success if they live in a two parent household; and that guys won't run off on their wives or girlfriends and their children if they face guaranteed punishment.

The president's plan calls for tough love, but you know what? All love is tough: That's what makes it vital and rewarding.

The Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence survived as long as the average mosquito -- about two days.

No sooner had Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced plans to elevate an obscure information center to office status than reporters began claiming the outfit might spread government-sanctioned disinformation lies designed to deceive an enemy.

Within mere hours, Pentagon flaks were scampering to microphones, claiming they never would lie to journalists and declaring the office dead before arrival.

Here's the interesting thing about this controversy. Politicians lie to reporters every day, in far grosser and grander ways than anything Pentagon planners could conceive. And yet media outfits transmit this stuff unquestioningly and without hesitation branding each new fib "news."

Personally, I think lying is bad policy, and nobody in government should practice it. But members of the journalism establishment shouldn't act as if they're shocked. For if they aren't and they really don't know they're disseminating political falsehoods then we've really got a story truly.

The murder and mutilation of Daniel Pearl ought to make several things very clear. First, the war on terror has just begun. We're dealing with people who love to murder others, who have contempt for the United States, our values, and the sanctity of human life. They're evil -- but they're also determined.

Second, we are different. We don't target civilians for murder, much less ritual slaughter, and we treat our enemies with far more compassion than they treat us. The butchery of Daniel Pearl exposes the hollow silliness of the complaints that we were being too nasty with the prisoners at Camp X-Ray.

Third: Even now, when our instincts tell us to rise up and crush our enemies, we need to temper our determination with humility -- taking care to single out true agents of evil, rather than whole nations.

But make no mistake: We must capture and punish Pearl's killers -- and we must throw into our attackers a combination of certainty and fear -- certainty that we will act, and a fear of what will happen to them when we do.

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