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This week I find myself in the awkward position of disagreeing with one of the most astute political thinkers in America today. While I understand that I’m stepping onto hallowed ground, I simply cannot agree with Earl Ofari Hutchinson’s position that Democratic candidates must concede being tough on terrorism to the GOP.
In his article, “Sorry Barack, You Can’t Out GOP the GOP On Terrorism,” Hutchinson takes the position that Sen. Barack Obama is making a mistake trying to come down hard against terrorism. He said, in 2004 Sen. John Kerry and the Democrats “made the political flub of the decade when they thought that they could out Bush Bush on his and the GOP’s pet issue, namely the war against terrorism.” He went on to say, when Kerry said, “he would launch search and destroy missions to ferret out Osama and Al Qaeda, that fooled absolutely no one.”
I have two questions in response to Brother Hutchinson’s position. First, he speaks of trying to out Bush Bush—what has Bush actually done to distinguish himself in the fight against terrorism, other than talk about it? The fact is, Bush has done absolutely nothing to protect America against terrorism. All Bush has done is got America caught up in a quagmire from which we cannot extricate ourselves. In fact, I submit that America is in much greater danger from terrorism now than we were immediately after 9-11.
How can anyone believe that Bush is in any way seriously interested in protecting America from terrorism while he’s left America’s front, and back door, wide open? In a letter written by Sen. John McCain in 2004, he acknowledges that in 2002 four million people crossed our borders illegally-that’s close to eleven thousand people per day. Any one, or any one thousand of those people could be terrorists, so how could anyone seriously say that Bush is protecting America from terrorism? Al Qaeda, or Osama himself, could walk right through America’s front door and we’d never know the difference. If Jose Gonzales can slip in, what’s to prevent Osama bin Laden? It’s not like Osama is going to be wearing a cow bell. Our Canadian border isn’t even a border—everyone crossing it is on the honor system.
If a parent left his child as vulnerable as Bush has left America, he’d be charged with child neglect. Bush’s so-call war on terror is nothing more than a political ploy to promote a massive corporate power-grab in America. His “Patriot’s Act” is a power-grab, his war in Iraq is a money-grab, and his surveillance program simply gives him carte blanche to spy on his political enemies. America would be much better served if Bush used his new surveillance powers to tap the phones of Halliburton to see whose pocket the national treasury is going into—but in that case, he’d only have to listen in on the White House switchboard.
My second question is, what makes Brother Hutchinson believe that John Kerry was trying to “fool” someone when he said that he would ferret out Osama and Al Qaeda? It seems to me that all Kerry was doing was talking common sense. If we’re going to go after the people responsible for 9-11, let’s go where they are—in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If George Bush had any interest in the American people, that’s what he would have done, but he’s been so intoxicated by the scent of Iranian oil for the past six years that he can’t concentrate on anything else. Instead of going after the people who attacked the United States, Bush and Cheney have, literally, used the pain and suffering of the American people to enrich themselves. So again, exactly what have Bush and the GOP done to distinguish themselves in war the on terror? It seems to me that we’ve been going downhill for the past six years. Even the name “war on terror” is a misnomer—it should be called “Bush’s war on civil rights.”
The only thing that Bush has been successful in, probably in his entire life, is misleading the American people (and America should take note of that, since it represents a prolific commentary on our level of collective intelligence). Here we are, four years into the worst political, economic, humanitarian, and diplomatic disaster in the history of the United States, and we still have political pundits saying that the people who caused it all are the ones most qualified to get us out of it. Call me dimwitted, but I don’t see the logic in that, at all.
At this point, we should be involved in two raging debates—one on how we’re going to get out of Iraq, and the other on how we got in there in the first place. And instead of thinking of this administration as America’s saviors, the heat from congressional hearings should be so intense that the streets should be buckling under Capitol Hill. At this point, the people of this administration should be hanging on to their jobs, and their freedom, by their toenails.
Hutchinson also pointed out that “Countless polls showed that the voters repeatedly gave Bush huge percentage margins over Kerry when asked who they thought would do a better job in the anti-terror war.” Therefore, Hutchinson reasons, Kerry should have conceded the war on terror to Bush, and campaigned on issues in which the voters perceived him as being stronger. The primary problem with that position is the fact that the voters saw the war on terror as the most important issue of the day. Therefore, why would Kerry want to concede the most important issue on the mind of the American people? That would be political suicide. The reason Kerry lost the last election had nothing to do with his trying to “out Bush Bush”—on the contrary, he lost the last election because the Democrats were too timid to clearly, and forcefully emphasize the stupidity of what Bush being Bush meant to the future of this nation.
The campaign strategy of the Democratic Party reminds me of a very painful lesson that I learned as a kid on the street. When I was in my early teens, I got into a fight with a guy after school. I really didn’t want to fight this guy, but there was a huge crowd, and I didn’t want to loose face by backing down. So I just went through the motions, and tried not to hit the guy hard enough to really make him mad. That worked for a while—until the guy caught on to what I was doing, then he became Muhammad Ali.
He lost all fear of being injured, and all fear of me, then his new goal became showing all the young girls how much style he could display as he whipped my butt. He started doing the Ali Shuffle, winding up with one hand and then hitting me with the other, and even spinning around before hitting me with a three punch combination—and the crowd loved it. For a minute, he knew what it felt like to be a star. I finally recognized, however, that since I was already being humiliated, I didn’t have anything more to loose. So I decided to put a little more effort into the fight, and soon found that, like most bullies everywhere, the guy was actually a wimp. Then it was my turn to play Muhammad. That experience taught me a very valuable lesson: Any fight worth fighting, is worth fighting with conviction.
That’s a lesson the Democrats need to learn. You cannot fight half a fight, and you can’t fight with your finger to the wind. Once you’re in a fight, you have to go for broke, or you’re going to get your butt kicked every time. On the other hand, if you put up a good fight, even if you loose, you’ll get much more respect from both your opponent, and the people watching from the sideline.
It wouldn’t take much effort on the part of Democrats to show that the neo-cons, just like the bully I pointed to earlier, are also wimps. There are more draft dodgers in the Bush administration than there was at Woodstock. So why did the voters have more faith in these draft dodgers to protect America than they did a war hero, and the party that won WWII, and also brought America out of the Great Depression? The answer is quite simple—because while the draft dodgers have very little heart when it comes to true combat, when it comes to political altercations (where they’re not in any physical peril), they become Muhammad Ali. They get to play-act, and they’re a natural at it—that’s what they do best. They get to strut around in combat gear and tell the enemy to “Bring it on!,” as they bravely lead the charge by cell phone. And since Hollywood has already conditioned America to accept fantasy as reality, America eats it up. That explains the Ronald Reagan, Schwarzenegger phenomena.
Then, on the other hand, we have the Democrats—great warriors, but too timid to inform the American people that they’re living in a Republican fantasy. Instead, Democrats validate the fantasy by trying to work within it. As a result, those Americans who live in the real world can’t help but ask themselves, how can they trust the Democrats to protect America from Al Qaeda, when they’re too timid to even protect themselves from the Republican Party?
So Ofari, while I consider you one of this community’s most accomplished political thinkers, I have to disagree with you this time, good brother. Your article should have been titled, “The Democrats Can’t Out GOP the GOP Fantasy.” But things are about to change, so keep that fifty dollars you’re about to owe me in a safe place, because I’ll be there to collect, real soon.
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at