[And if you're coming in on a link from elsewhere, be sure to read this later post].
The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way -- and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it's deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.
And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they're acting unpatriotically.
UPDATE: InstaPunk looks at the origins of the big lie on Iraq. Meanwhile, Michael Ubaldi emails:
President Bush should revisit the media-distorted Duelfer report, which confirmed that Saddam Hussein changed his strategy in the latter 1990s and intended to rebuild his WMD capacity when the sanctions-regime-turned-bonanza was lifted.
Ending the Gulf War -- and by democratizing, aiding the prosecution of the war on terror -- was always about Iraq and the despotic government its authoritarian culture made possible.
Just read the items linked above.
UPDATE: Reader Kathleen Boerger emails: "Could you do me a favor and define 'patriotism' please?"
I think it starts with not uttering falsehoods that damage the country in time of war, simply because your donor base wants to hear them.
Patriotic people could -- and did -- oppose the war. But so did a lot of scoundrels. And some who supported the war were not patriotic, if they did it out of opportunism or political calculation rather than honest belief. Those who are now trying to recast their prior positions through dishonest rewriting of history are not patriotic now, nor were they when they supported the war, if they did so then out of opportunism --which today's revisionist history suggests.
Judging from the lefty hatemail this post has created, I have to observe that it's odd -- people who have spent the past year saying that Bush took us to war to enrich Halliburton somehow now think it's beyond the bounds of civilized discussion to question people's motives on the war. That's part of the big lie, too.
Instead of looking backward to question why we're at war, Democrats should focus on winning by increasing the size of the military, portraying a positive message, supporting not just the troops, but also their mission, and showing the world a united homefront in the midst of war.
There's precedent for this counterintuitive approach--1992. When Bushes win victories abroad, the focus returns quickly to their failures at home. And as far as many Republican voters are concerned, there are domestic deficiencies aplenty in this Bush administration. Just as there were in his father's.
So, Democrats, stop running against the war. You serve only to unite an otherwise disenchanted Republican base. If you take the war off the front page by winning it, Republicans will have to depend on their domestic record for victory. And, unfortunately, there's little there to rally the base.
The desire of so many on the left to relive the Vietnam era is Karl Rove's secret weapon.
MORE: The full text of Bush's speech is here. Excerpt:
While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.
They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate — who had access to the same intelligence — voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power. (Applause.)
The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.)
(Applause.) Er, and (about time).
And read this post by Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics, too. Excerpt: "In the end, the story of the run-up to the Iraq war is about intelligence, but not in the way most people think. Intelligence is always flawed and imprecise, even more so when you're dealing with a closed, paranoid and authoritarian regime like Hussein's. It's foolish to suggest Bush should have bucked consensus estimates on Iraq WMD built from more than a decade of intel, and it's even worse to suggest he lied for not doing so."