So George Bush said that he doesn't think we can win the war on terror, and Democrats are jumping all over him for it.
But they shouldn't be.
1. Bush is right. We can't win the war on terror. Everybody knows it. Terror isn't a person or a group or a nation; it's an abstraction. You can't win the war on terror any more than you can win the war on drugs, or a war on anger. It's an asinine concept.
2. What's more, lots of liberals have been saying the exact same thing since September 12, 2001 -- that you can't win a war on terror. It's more than a bit hypocritical for people to jump on Bush for agreeing with them.
3. Beyond that, Bush did something uncharacteristically intelligent when he said this -- he made a nuanced point. He said he doesn't think you can win a war on terror, but you can create conditions under which terror is a less acceptable tactic, a last resort. And, again, he's right. That's about the best you can hope for, and if I were president, that's what I'd base my antiterrorism campaign on. I've written many times about how terrorism can never be eliminated, but that conditions can be created under which it is less frequent and is looked upon as a terrible abberation rather than a justifiable method of resistance.
4. As articles like this make clear, the Democrats not only ignored Bush's larger point, but they're attempting to equate "you can't win the war on terror" with an admission of defeat, which is nonsense. Saying something cannot be won is not the same as saying something has been lost; ask a chess player.
ON THE OTHER HAND.
1. I really want Bush to lose. He's the worst president of my lifetime, maybe the worst ever, and this makes him look bad, even if it's not right that it does so. If his people haven't learned not to let him speak off the cuff, they deserve whatever flak they get for letting him do it, no matter how unjustified. He's shown no reluctance to smear Kerry by taking a legitimate statement he made and twisting it around to sound bad, so he should expect no quarter when the same is done to him.
2. If Kerry -- or any Democrat -- had said "I don't think you can win (the war on terror)", the Republicans would be up his ass with threshing knives inside five seconds. From now until the close of polls on election day, they'd never stop reminding Americans that their opponent said he didn't think we could win the war on terror. So fuck them if they expect anyone to back off on this.
3. Bush is no friend of the nuanced point. Whenever Kerry makes one (see: the recent "anti-war candidate" flap), Bush's team has been more than willing to pick it apart and ignore the nuance to make it look like Kerry said something outrageous. Live by the sword, die by the sword; set the tone, deal with the consequences.
4. In a larger sense, Bush has done very little to even try to fight the war on terror; his record on the issue, all nuanced statements aside, is pretty abysmal. He's also spent the whole week lying, dissimulating and avoiding the facts -- see his interview in the New York Times where he ducks his responsibility for the Swift Boat ads, avoids answering a question about his position on Abu Ghraib, waffles endlessly on North Korea (and, stupefyingly, says "I don't think you give timelines to dictators and tyrants"!), shows a stupefying lack of knowledge of his own environmental policy, and most staggering of all, claims that his biggest mistake in Iraq was winning the war too quickly -- as per normal. So I'm disinclined to give him too much credit for accidentally saying something accurate once in a blue moon.
The Democrats are wrong to jump on Bush for this one. What he said was right, and true, and even thoughtful. They have no cause to throw it back in his face.
But watch me stand back and not cry as they do.