I judge from the applause at the most recent Republican presidential debate that the people in the audience at least still equate patriotism with supporting the war of the day.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the only intellectually honest candidate in the bunch, correctly pointed out that it was our policy of interventionism that caused the attack on 9/11.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, intensely uncomfortable at having been forced to talk about his liberal positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights, leaped at the opportunity to reprimand Paul for suggesting that we had invited the attack. "I’ve never heard that," Giuliani snapped, showing that he is ignorant even on matters of security, and demanded that Paul retract it. He didn’t, of course. But Giuliani got a big round of applause, as if he had come to the defense of America rather than just cleverly change the subject.
Osama bin Laden, the author of those attacks, has said quite plainly, publicly and explicitly that the attack was prompted by our intervention in the Muslim world. It is outrageous that Giuliani claims not to know that, given that his whole campaign is based on his claim of being the best-qualified leader in matters of security and the so-called war on terror.
Actually, Giuliani isn’t an expert on security. He’s a lawyer and a political hack. The attack on 9/11 was a political gift of the gods to him. He walked up and down the street in front of the television cameras, gave speeches and went to funerals, and for that he received the accolades of the press.
Giuliani is not a leader. He is a cynical exploiter. He exploited the attack the day it happened, and he’s exploited it since to make a fortune posing as an expert security consultant. Now he hopes to exploit the tragedy, which, like the president, he had done nothing to prevent, to get the Republican nomination for the presidency.
By demonstrating his ignorance of the cause of the attack, he has disqualified himself from consideration.
Sad to say, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is not the man he was seven years ago. He’s gotten old, and in his old age has become an evader and an equivocator. He makes the same tired prediction of terrible consequences if we get out of Iraq, but he has no solutions except to do more of the same. If he were elected, he would be older than Ronald Reagan when he took office. And Reagan was too old, in my opinion.
As for al-Qaida taking root in Iraq, he is apparently unaware of how the tribal sheiks in the western part of the country have annihilated al-Qaida in their region. One of the sheiks boasted recently, "We did in three months what the Americans haven’t been able to do in four years." Trust me, al-Qaida will not survive our departure from Iraq, which is why al-Qaida, above all, wants us to stay.
The only ones who impressed me were Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado came up with the best line of the night. Remarking on the liberals trying to become conservatives, he quipped, "There have been a lot of conversions tonight, but the only conversion I trust was the conversion on the road to Damascus, not the conversions on the road to Des Moines." It got a good laugh.
Our presidential election system is broken. By front-loading the primaries, only multimillionaires can raise the money necessary to get well known. The lesser-known — and this year the more-qualified — men have an uphill struggle.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.