Sunday, July 16, 2006

Dean comes out swinging on national security

In a speech delivered at San Diego State University, DNC Chair Howard Dean "accused President Bush last night of being weak on national defense and absent in the escalating violence between Israel and Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon".

Some of his remarks:

-- You know, people say the Republicans are tough on defense. How can you be tough on defense if five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still at large, the Iranians are about to get nuclear weapons, North Korea's quadrupled their nuclear weapons stash... Explain to me how it is that this president is tough on defense? I think this president is weak on defense and he's hurt America because he hasn't done the right thing."


-- "This country is in the worst shape since Richard Nixon, and probably before that. We've lost the high moral high ground everywhere in the world. We want to be respected around the world again. We want our moral authority to be restored, because part of defending America is not just well-armed troops; it's having the high moral ground."


-- "If you think what's going on in the Middle East today would be going on if the Democrats were in control, it wouldn't, because we would have worked day after day after day to make sure we didn't get where we are today. We would have had the moral authority that Bill Clinton had when he brought together the Northern Irish and the IRA, when he brought together the Israelis and the Palestinians."

MAYBE RIGHT (Right about Clinton's moral authority, right that a Democratic presidency would still have it, but wrong to think that "what's going on" certainly wouldn't be going on.)

Howard Dean. He's a controversial figure, to be sure, and Republicans love to pick on him the way they've long picked on Hillary, but at least he's passionate and aggressive enough to take the debate over national security right to Bush's doorstep.

Republicans have long claimed -- and it's a claim that's been widely accepted -- that they are the party of national security and that Democrats, particularly after 9/11, would weaken America's defences and leave the homeland, as well as America's interests abroad, exposed to terrorism. But look what Bush has done. And hasn't done. Need I remind you of the Dubai ports debacle? Of how America's reputation in the world, her moral authority, has been severely damaged by such scandals as the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo? Of how Iraq has diverted attention away from the war on terror itself? Of the illegal NSA eavesdropping program and various other efforts to deprive Americans of their liberties?

Republican credentials on national security amount to little more than hollow rhetoric. That was enough to push Bush over the top in '04, with an electorate unwilling to make a change at the top, but '06 isn't '04. It's time for Democrats to take back national security as an issue that can help them reclaim majorities in both houses of Congress and, beyond that, the presidency itself in '08.

Americans, I think, are ready for a change. They want new leadership -- even (or especially) with respect to national security. The failures of the Bush presidency have left Republicans exposed. Howard Dean sees that opening. Here's hoping that other leading Democrats -- particularly those looking ahead to a White House run -- do, too.

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