I come before you tonight not to make amends, not to make it good, curry any favor or find any middle ground.
I am, more or less, a lame duck. You’ve had your 100 hours of party time. I know. I won’t get any legislation passed without some major bottom-kissing. Maybe something on illegal aliens. That health insurance thing I’ll be talking about later tonight is pretty much for show. I know it isn’t going anywhere. A proposal to raise middle-class taxes for a healthcare plan you don’t even want? What was I thinking?
None of that really matters. Not now. Those are peacetime issues we’ve been bickering about for a long time, and I don’t expect we’ll resolve them anytime soon.
So what is the best thing I can do tonight? I can tell you the truth. What none of you want to hear. What you’ve been stopping your ears to. The ugly truth.
The State of the Union is a disaster. I did my best, but I made mistakes, and my best wasn’t good enough.
We went to war without building up our army, and now, I am trying to make up for that.
But that is not the disaster.
The disaster is that you, Congress and the American people, do not care to fight.Faced with a fundamental challenge to our own security, to everything we believe in, to the world order to peace and security for which we and our parents fought so hard for so many years, you now want to pretend like none of these threats are real. You want to surrender to the evil I have been telling you about. An evil that, unchecked, can consume large parts of the world and threatens to usher in a dark age.
You didn’t like it when I talked about evil. Sounded too simple, too uncompromising, too moralistic. Too … biblical.
I don’t know what else you call people who fly passenger jets into office buildings; who rape women in front of their husbands and children, and execute their opponents in acid baths; who seek to spread tyrannical and archaic religious regimes that enslave women and stifle fundamental freedoms. Who want to dominate the world’s primary oil fields with nuclear weapons.
I call it evil. Works for me.
I’ve heard all the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. George Bush’s Vietnam. The myopia is astonishing, even for me, George Bush, who you all think just isn’t that smart. But I learned something in school: People who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Didn’t you learn anything from Vietnam? Didn’t you see what happened when your predecessors in Congress, disgruntled and responding to public opinion polls just like you are, voted repeatedly to undermine an ally that was fighting for its survival and making headway against evil? There, I’ve said it again. Millions of people were murdered or imprisoned.
And then, those who wished us ill … the evil-doers … evil, evil evil … took advantage of our weakness.
The Soviet Union, evil personified, invaded Afghanistan, knowing we’d do nothing about it. Iran defied all international norms, took our sovereign embassy and held our people hostage for 444 days. They knew we’d do nothing about it. It was a massive humiliation we have been paying for with our own precious blood ever since.
Where do you think this war we are now engaged in started, anyway? Just ask Osama bin Laden, veteran of the Afghan war against the Soviets, what lesson he learned from two decades of American appeasement and withdrawal in the face of provocation.
Now, you want to negotiate with two of the world’s primary sponsors of terrorism, who are directly involved in support of the terrorists who murder our soldiers. You want to make an arrangement by which we will exit Iraq, and leave it to them. To loot, to murder, to fight over, while the rest of the world’s evil regimes look on, see our weakness, and plot their own moves.
You can try that, with resolutions, by cutting spending for troops in the field, as you seek the short-term satisfaction of withdrawal. But I remain President of the United States, and as long as I am, I will be no lame duck in this fight.
I will engage evil directly where I find it, in Iraq and in Iran. With an aggressive and ruthless new strategy and a plan to build our army as we should have a long time ago, I will show the American people that we can fight and we can win. I expect that the American people, though misled by their press and many of their elected representatives, will see results and will get it. Because the American people are a people who in the end don’t give up, don’t stop fighting, refuse to lose, and will choose to win. I have faith in them.
Oh, there’s another one of those words you don’t like.
A nation that is not willing to fight for what it believes in, for its place in the world, is not worthy of its own ideals. But that is not America. I now intend to help America restore its faith in itself. By fighting this necessary fight that we cannot afford to lose.
So … are you with me, or against us?
Jules Crittenden is an editor and columnist for the Boston Herald.
Crittenden’s web page is at Forward Movement.