Roger L. Simon

It's politics... no, it's not.... okay, maybe it is a little, but what choice do we have?

I watched Geraldine Ferraro last night on the Neil Cavuto Show as she spouted the Democratic Party line. Bush running around making all these speeches about terrorism (he should never have stopped) is all “about politics.” Other tedious voices of the quondam left are now even saying the Islamist threat is essentially inflated and that reputations of the likes of Khalid Sheik Mohammed puffed up for propaganda purposes. (I wonder how those supposed wizards would feel if their families were in an airplane or a subway car during an attack – sudden conversion out of one of those cheesy Hollywood Bible flicks of the fifties…).

Meanwhile, the war continues and the “fictional” Ahmadinejad is rumored to be trying to speak to the UN General Assembly again after he has continually defied the same organization on nuclear weapons (and the show of Holocuast denial cartoons continues its triumphal run in a gallery in Tehran). And he has a good chance of succeeding. Does anyone think this man isn’t serious? Well, never mind.

The situation is grim. Really grim. The US is not “winning the war on terror.” The war has only begun, as Newt Gingrich, one of the few politicians capable of doing his own writing, says today in a WSJ editorial:

Just consider the following: Osama bin Laden is still at large. Afghanistan is still insecure. Iraq is still violent. North Korea and Iran are still building nuclear weapons and missiles. Terrorist recruiting is still occurring in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and across the planet.

Gingrich is not the first to make comparisons between our times and the Civil War but he does it well.

The first and greatest lesson of the last five years parallels what Lincoln came to understand. The dangers are greater, the enemy is more determined, and victory will be substantially harder than we had expected in the early days after the initial attack. Despite how painful it would prove to be, Lincoln chose the road to victory. President Bush today finds himself in precisely the same dilemma Lincoln faced 144 years ago. With American survival at stake, he also must choose. His strategies are not wrong, but they are failing. And they are failing for three reasons.

(1) They do not define the scale of the emerging World War III, between the West and the forces of militant Islam, and so they do not outline how difficult the challenge is and how big the effort will have to be. (2) They do not define victory in this larger war as our goal, and so the energy, resources and intensity needed to win cannot be mobilized. (3) They do not establish clear metrics of achievement and then replace leaders, bureaucrats and bureaucracies as needed to achieve those goals.

These are issues that far transcend the partisanship of an election year. Yet the media and the pols are locked in the banality of that process. To some degree that’s human nature, to another the laudable workings of a democracy that cannot and should not stop, but to another a blindness that seems frighteningly oblivious to real danger. The political merry-go-round is spinning out of control. The Democratic Party appears to be run by clueless careerists bound to some tired playbook labeled 1972 and the Republicans only slightly (very slightly) better. In this mess, Bush needs to be more courageous and more eloquent. Can he do it? I’d hate to be in his shoes.