Washington—With his speech at Salt Lake City Thursday morning, George Bush formally opened the campaign season setting forth the basic GOP theme of victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, and attacking those who want to get out as appeasers like Chamberlin at the start of World War II. For Bush this is Munich all over again.
The Bush attack could well shred the proposals by Democrats to fix a date for leaving Iraq. The Republicans have successfully beaten down timid forays by congressional Democrats earlier this year, trapping the opposition into naming specific dates for withdrawal and then soundly thrashing them in debate. Democrats who set out to propose moderate withdrawal were accused of cut and run tactics, cowards for failing to support the troops in time of war. Bush clearly thinks he can go this route again.
But labeling those who oppose his Iraq policy as appeasers may well add to the difficulties of some Republicans who are trying to take a more moderate course, distancing themselves from the President. Now they have little choice but to get behind Bush. For members needing money and personal support from national Republican leaders, opposing Bush almost surely will undercut their campaigns, opening the way for Democratic candidates.
As often happens, Bush’s statements bear seemingly little resemblance to what is actually going on. “The days of the Taliban are over,” he said. But the Taliban have been steadily mounting bolder attacks in Afghanistan. “The future of Afghanistan is freedom,” Bush said. But the real question in Afghanistan is whether the US supported government can withstand the growing assault.
“Together we are going to make it clear to the world that foreign forces and terrorists have no place in a democratic Lebanon,” he said. This is yet another threat to Iran. And there were several of these, perhaps the most pointed being, “There must be consequences for Iran’s defiance and we must not allow Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.” This is a reference to the administration’s recently leaked proposals for placing sanctions against Iran, sanctions that could effect the oil exports to Japan and Italy—both countries that depend on Iran oil.
The President dismissed the civil war in Iraq by simply saying “that is not the case.”
There is one thing Bush can make happen and that is the execution of Saddam. Whether that can be achieved before the November election seems doubtful. But that news could very well save the day for the Republican Right.