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Stand Your Ground President Bush

red states rule

Senior Member
May 30, 2006
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Commander in Chief, Stand Your Ground
By: Ken Khachigian
January 23, 2007 10:01 PM EST

Twenty years ago, under circumstances eerily similar to today, I returned briefly to the White House as President Ronald Reagan's sometime speechwriting troubleshooter to collaborate on his 1987 State of the Union speech. Senate Democrats had regained the majority in the midterm elections; the House of Representatives had a new speaker; and Reagan was dogged by terrorism and turmoil in the Middle East and, not least, the Iran-Contra blow-up.

The Gipper gave it his best -- extending "warm congratulations" and pledges of "harmony and good will" to Speaker Jim Wright and high praise for new Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd. Reagan's voice was at its velvety best, and his lines were full of uplift, challenge and patriotism.

But the mood of the country was sour. The Democrats saw weakness in an embattled Reagan and bitterly attacked him. Republicans, with an eye toward the next election, were politically wary of appearing too supportive. And the national media's review of the speech was characterized by sarcasm and borderline contempt. It was a tough night all around. Sound familiar?

For George W. Bush, it's going to be a similarly tough grind in the House chamber tonight. So what's a president to do?

First, Barbara Bush raised him with good manners, so the occasion calls for graceful presidential gestures. Nancy Pelosi indisputably makes history seated behind him in the speaker's chair. That event was 220 years in the making and deserves a warm embrace. Sure, Sen. Harry Reid sends the hairs up on Republican necks, but singling him out for his new leadership role and bestowing a light-hearted Bushian nickname on him wouldn't hurt. The chief executive's greatest political asset is his personal charm; he should put it to good use.

After that it will be a tough slog. The president will no doubt talk about tax policy, the strong economy, energy independence and reducing the budget deficit. Like his GOP predecessors, he will offer programs that Democrats, by any reasonable measure, should applaud, but won't: improving education, protecting the environment, helping seniors and securing better health care for all. These make up the standard State of the Union laundry list, and tonight they will be lost in the clash over the war in Iraq.

Our nation's capital has become a city in need of anger management. Before President Bush utters a word, talk show combatants, presidential candidates, opinion writers and breathless correspondents will have primed the country for another day's combustible debate over the war. Boilerplate e-mails are no doubt locked and loaded with polemics about body bags, presidential lies, disaster, civil war, incompetence - the more histrionics, the better.

On Jan. 10, the president outlined his new plan and took the graceful route with mea culpas, admissions and forthrightness -- which pretty much earned him a smack in the face. If, as he said, America is "engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror -- and our safety here at home," then bluntly and forcefully, that is the case he should make tonight. For Bush, America's resolve is now tied inextricably to his personal resolve.

Embracing the convention of "honest differences" makes no sense when opponents have taken leave of reasoned dialogue. The barbershop coaches and barroom quarterbacks aren't about to cut the president slack; and he should return the favor.

With the political opposition giving no quarter, Bush might want to deliver remarks such as these:

"The counsel of abandonment and retreat will stain the honor of America, undermine the integrity of our word and make us not less, but more, vulnerable to an enemy which thinks us to be weak and uncommitted. They listen and believe that their ugliness will send our nation cowering into a Fortress America. Sixty-four months ago, the walls of our fortress failed, and only the conspicuous bravery of a few prevented the incineration of the very room in which we gather tonight. Our collapse and withdrawal will embolden them to seek and destroy us on our streets once more, and so our men and women are standing watch in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep the battle there, not here. They will not let America down. Neither must you and neither must I."

George Bush is stubborn, they'll say. But, for the right reasons, that's what we expect of our presidents. And what better proof than this: less than five months after critics panned Reagan's speech for little energy and no agenda, he was in Berlin telling Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."

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