I'm sitting on a Delta flight from Fort Myers to Atlanta and enjoying a very cool feature: live television via the little seatback screen in front of me.
I tuned to Fox News (as soon as the inane "Fox and Friends" ended) and caught a clip from Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Bush. The president said he understands the American public's frustration with the war, which exists because we "want to win." Because Americand are humane and conscience-driven, Bush said, they grow weary quickly of murderous violence and daily loss of innocent life. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda understand this, he noted, and have stated that their strategy is to prolong the killing until America "loses its nerve."
Here, I think the president makes THE case for the war, perhaps the only truly persuasive case left. The islamofascists are pushing our buttons and they know it.
I don't think enough Americans know it, however. Jack Quinn, White House Counsel in the Clinton Administration, was a "talking head" reactor to the O'Reilly-Bush interview. (I last saw Quinn when he was testifying before Congress in defense of Bill Clinton's indefensible last-minute pardons.) Quinn stated flatly that the terrorists are not trying to influence American public opinion, but are simply engaged in sectarian violence. That's all. Quinn then moved on to attack Bush, sneeringly calling the O'Reilly interview "painful" and attacking Bush for his failure to understand the real situation in Iraq and the need for the United States to get out.
So here we have two views of the war: The Democrat view, expressed by Quinn, vacuous and unsuppported by anything other than opinion; and the Republican view, supported by our enemies' clear and repeated statements about their goals.
President Bush and all GOP officeholders need to stand up and repeat that message: Don't let the terrorists succeed by wearing down our resolve. We have a plan and are implementing it. There are setbacks and obstacles, but we are moving toward the goal. We must see it through.
I think that's a winning message. Fox reported polling data indicating that 41 percent of Americans favor leaving Iraq, and 39 percent want to stay. (I'm not sure of the specific polling questions that were asked.) There's a division in the country on the issue. The president has a case, and it's better than the opposition's. He and his allies need to press that case relentlessly.
Just after that report, Fox showed live video of the signing ceremony for the Military Commission Act, authorizing, among other things, the use of aggressive interrogation techniques against captured enemy combatants.. In his remarks the president reminded us again how much information those techniques have produced, and the atrocities that have been avoided as a result.
Like just about everyone, I am sickened and appalled at the violence in Iraq and weary of the loss of life. But one side of this argument is serious about the threat facing us, and the other is shockingly unserious. I hope the Republicans can make that clear.