Ira Smolensky


                     War, patriotism, and the killer “B”s


         It must be getting to be election season because Republicans are breaking out their tried and true “the Democrats are wimps” rhetoric.

         Ken Mehlman, chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), is leading the charge.    According to a recent USA Today report, Mehlman claimed that if Democrats gain control of Congress they will dismantle crucial intelligence tools in the war on terror and even launch an attempt to impeach the president.

         “America faces a crucial question,” Mehlman told fellow Republicans at a summer meeting of the RNC.  “Will we elect leaders who recognize we’re at war and want to use every tool to win it, or politicians who would surrender important tools we need to win?

         “As foreign jihadists call into the United States, do we use (National Security Agency) technology to stop sleeper cells before they hit us?  Or do we surrender use of this technology, as Nancy Pelosi (House Minority Leader) and Howard Dean (Democratic National Committee Chair) would have us do?”

         Actually, the whole speech could be summed up with three of Mehlman’s words: “do we surrender?”

         “Surrender,” according to Mehlman and other Republicans, is what Democrats are all about.

         Of course, this accusation is not quite fair.  A number of Republicans also have been critical of the Bush Administration’s complete and utter disregard for due process, with regard to surveillance as well as the detainment of alleged terrorists.  Then, too, the real “politicians” (that is to say, demagogic weasels) in this matter are Mehlman and his ilk, since polls show that a majority of Americans are quite willing to take off the gloves and put on brass knuckles to effectively fight terrorism.

         Despite their alleged wimpiness, Democrats did fight back.  DNC spokesperson Karen Finney bravely asserted that, “The American people will not be fooled again . . . desperate ranting won’t change the fact that Bush and his rubber-stamp Republicans are in deep trouble with the American people who can see right through their trickery and spin.”

         Maybe Finney is right.  Maybe she is thinking of Abe Lincoln’s seemingly optimistic observation that, “You may deceive all the people part of the time, and some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time.”

         I am not so optimistic.  Modern Republicans know just how many people they have to deceive to make the 2006 election come out in their favor, and they are going to spare no expense to get the job done.

         This bothers me.  Lincoln and FDR would never have exploited their war time duties for the gain of their political party.  Yet George W. Bush and his minions have done nothing but just that, shamefully juicing 9-11 for every vote it might yield.  As a native New Yorker, I think this stinks.   

         So I would like to help Democrats to fight back.  And I don’t believe the best route to success is to simply hope that other issues outweigh the war.  Democrats must hammer home the simple truth-- that they can fight the war on terror better than the Republicans.  Anybody could.

         Blustering, bullying, and blundering—the killer “B”s should become the signature phrase of the campaign, because this is just what the Republican war effort has consisted of, with no real victories, no real increase in security, and at least one massive error (the war in Iraq). 

         Driving home the killer “B”s effectively will not require saber-rattling.  Indeed, to boast about bringing home the heads of our enemies on a plate will just make Democrats look and sound like the bunglers running the show now: what is needed is quiet strength, the kind that leads to a just and lasting peace rather than perpetual war.