I dont have much time to blog on this right now, but yesterday the President delivered another strong speech, detailing how intelligence efforts have paid off in the apprehension of terrorists and outlining a proposal for the organization and conduct of military commissions to try those who are allegedly attempting to kill as many of us as possible.
Today, he was up the road from me delivering this speech on lessons learned from 9/11 and calling for Congress to update FISA. Heres the conclusion of todays speech:
In the early days after 9/11, I told the American people that this would be a long war -- a war that would look different from others we have fought, with difficulties and setbacks along the way. The past five years have proven that to be true. The past five years have also shown what we can achieve when our nation acts with confidence and resolve and clear purpose. Weve learned the lessons of 9/11, and we have addressed the gaps in our defenses exposed by that attack. Weve gone on the offense against our enemies, and transformed former adversaries into allies. We have put in place the institutions needed to win this war. Five years after September the 11th, 2001, America is safer -- and America is winning the war on terror. With vigilance, determination, courage, we will defeat the enemies of freedom, and we will leave behind a more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren.
The White House also released this White Paper, offering its view of the successes and challenges in the five years since 9/11.
Heres the Democrats alternative.
By challenging Congress to immediately give the administration authority to try notorious al-Qaeda figures such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed by military commissions, he shifted the argument with Democratic critics of national security policies and competence. As Bush framed the choice, anyone against his proposal would be denying him necessary tools to protect American security.
His success in catching much of Washington by surprise showed that a president who polls show has his political back to the wall still has formidable tools: the ability to make well-timed course corrections on policy, dominate the news and shape the capitals agenda in the weeks before Election Day.
Heres the nub of the Democratic response:
As the president was speaking, Senate Democrats were holding a news conference on Capitol Hill to denounce his anti-terrorism policies as “tough but empty rhetoric” and offer a package of proposals of their own.
“Republicans have ignored the lessons of 9/11 and failed to make America as safe as we can and should be,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader. “They want to ‘stay the course’ in the face of failure. We won’t.”
Unless I miss my guess, Harry Reid has walked into the trap, accepting the identification of the was on terror with the war in Iraq by using the Democratic characterization of the latter and applying it to the former. And however one describes "the facts on the ground" in Iraq, its hard to redescribe the fact that there havent been any terror attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. If I had to bet, Id bet that GWB will be seen to have won this round politically.
And its important that he win it politically because his continued poltiical success is essential for our security.