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Jewish World Review Nov. 2, 2004 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Tony Snow

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Round-up | Usama has spoken again – for the first time in more than three years. The “State of the Terror Network” Address broadcasted last week on al Jazeera suggests several things:

1) Bin Laden hasn’t lost his flair for sanguinary rhetoric, but he does seem to have lost his ability to summon lightning and thunder -- making this tape an admission of defeat rather than an act of defiance. (I hope I’m right on this.)

2) The war on terror has succeeded in isolating, if not debilitating al Qaeda. The tape sounded more like a lame recruiting video than a call to arms. As William Safire notes in The New York Times, generals don’t call for truces unless they know they’re losing.

3) Bin Laden has another problem: Abu Musab al Zarqawi has become the effective leader of the terror network, mainly because Zarqawi is fighting on the front lines while bin Laden is cowering who-knows-where.

There’s another interesting angle to this: The old-line press in the United States dismissed the bin Laden tape almost as if it had never appeared. In so doing, media mavens slapped away one of the key contentions of the Kerry campaign – that the president should have demanded greater focus on killing bin Laden in 2002. If bin Laden doesn’t matter enough to lead every front page and news broadcast, he must not be the threat Sen. Kerry has made him out to be.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9-11 Commission, made precisely that point today on the show. When asked directly whether bin Laden now poses a clear and present threat to the U.S., Kerrey answered succinctly, “no.” In fact, when asked whether he could say with certainty that bin Laden was in Tora Bora when Sen. Kerry says he was, Kerrey was equally pithy: “no.” So much for the argument that Iraq is a “distraction.” It is, as most polls suggest, the main show. 
Gen. Tommy Franks

Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of Central Command during the war, also dropped by today, and really let John Kerry have it on several fronts. He argued that Sen. Kerry was flat wrong in asserting (a) that the U.S. let bin Laden get away and (b) did so because we “outsourced” the job to Afghan warlords. Franks argued that a Kerry strategy would have sent many American soldiers and Afghan citizens to slaughter, without achieving the real goals of crushing the Taliban and liberating the Afghan people. He also argued that John Kerry’s record as a war protester was fair game, while his record as a Swift Boat commander was not. Franks also offered the simple, powerful point about exit strategies: There is only one and it is called victory.

Final note: Sen. Kerry repeatedly has argued that President Bush “fired” former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki because Shinseki had recommended a larger invasion force for Iraq. Franks noted (a) that Shinseki had submitted his resignation well in advance of the war after a four-year tour as Army chief and (b) that Shinseki also had said nothing publicly in support of Kerry or in support of Kerry’s insinuation that Shinseki was the victim of vituperative Bushies. Equally interesting is another absence on the campaign trail. Remember John Kerry’s band of brothers? Whatever happened to them? Why aren’t they on the stump? Inquiring minds want to know.

Democrats gone mad:

Some fun developments on the campaign trail:

• Walter Cronkite argued the other night that Karl Rove was responsible for the bin Laden video. (I hope Walter was simply trying to tell a joke.)

• Chris Heinz, son-in-law of the Democratic nominee, called the president a “cokehead.” 

• Kerry also has approved a Florida ad that accuses the president of planning to slash Social Security payments by 45 percent.

A note on the environment

A caller said that she wants to vote for Bush, but it troubles her that he is bad for environment. I promised statistics on environmental improvement. Well, check out the long-term trends for air pollution and acid rain. Here’s the simple environmental argument:

First, Americans want cleaner air and water. We’re a big, prosperous country; we don’t want to have the air of 19th Century London or the water of Soviet-era Lake Baikal. Every politician of note proclaims the rightness of the cause. Only an idiot would tout the “good side” of pollution.

Second, there are two approaches to cleaning up the environment: (1) Through a regulatory reign of terror – ordering businesses to clean up, in precisely the way the government dictates, or else – or (2) by encouraging enterprising souls to find ways of getting rich by satisfying people’s desire for cleanliness. John Kerry likes sticks; George Bush likes carrots.

The record indicates that we have cleaner air and water than ever before, although there was a slight upward tick last year in sulfur dioxides. In ever other category, overall pollution has fallen, even though more Americans are working than ever before, driving than ever before, breathing than ever before, making and disposing of waste than ever before. You get the idea. So when somebody accuses the president of being “bad” on the environment, it might make sense to ask: How? An where’s your proof?

McCain speaks out:

This is hardly a headline. John McCain always speaks out. Today’s interview produced several items of interest.

• John McCain, like many of us, has loud dogs. He was a bit embarrassed by the fact that his dogs started baying at an unfamiliar staffer while the senator was on-air. As the owner of three large and vocal dogs, I have nothing against people with multiple pets – in fact, I rather like them.

• McCain is as good an advocate as the president has for the action in Iraq. He doesn’t agree with the president on such matters as tax cuts and pork-barrel spending, but those issues haven’t risen to the fore. McCain also has the distinction of being on relatively good terms with Sen. Kerry. This actually increases his street credibility on which candidate best can win the War in Iraq and prosecute the more amorphous War on Terror.

• McCain also agrees with yours truly that Al Gore’s legacy was to poison the well of American electoral politics. His sore-loser act in 2000, followed by four years of raging calumniation of Team Bush, has utterly polarized American politics, and spread the lie that the president “stole” an election. No man in American history has lost with less grace, and with more destructive effect. McCain agrees with my thesis that the next president ought to hit the stump immediately after the election and do everything in his power to lower the temperature in American politics and isolate the Michael Moore factions, who seem much more wedded to self-righteousness than to such inconveniences as facts..

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