Right Hook

O'Reilly helps Bush explain the Arab street, and the Spectator's Mark Steyn insists bin Laden is dead. Plus: Buchanan says Gray Davis' recall strategy will cause traffic fatalities to skyrocket.

Published September 17, 2003 10:31PM (EDT)

Last week's 9/11 anniversary sparked much chatter among conservatives about America's condition two years into the age of terror. Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly says America isn't thinking straight about the greater global struggle, and that even President Bush is failing to communicate America's essential mission. Perhaps the president lacks the right vernacular:

"For a country smack in the middle of World War III, we are certainly a blasé bunch. We're worried about how much fighting the people who want to kill us will cost and whether we have an 'exit strategy' in Iraq. Craven politicians and crazed columnists are second guessing President Bush who, at times, looks like he's first guessing the nation's foreign policy.

"Since Mr. Bush, for some inexplicable reason, will not spell it out for you, it falls on me to do so. There are around the world thousands of Islamic fanatics who want to kill Americans because they believe Allah is down with that."

A timorous American and European left is actually "the biggest force for conservatism in world affairs right now," says columnist Andrew Sullivan.

"Their ... stance has robbed them of any means to criticize Arab or Islamist societies, or to support reform of them, even if it means temporary armed intervention. Their support for 'peace' is really an argument for complete Western disengagement from societies and cultures where tyranny, genocide, terror and theocracy abide. How is it that one can scour the pages of, say, the Nation and not find a single essay marveling at the new freedoms in Iraq -- of the press, of free speech, of religious diversity? Even when they do see the good side of, say, greater freedom for women in Afghanistan, their loathing of the Bush administration dampens much of their liberal conviction."

Sullivan also spotlights the meltdown of the Western media in Iraq, citing a recent report by the New York Times' John F. Burns. The report has been all over the Web the last few days:

"The best reporter by far on Saddam Hussein's Iraq unloads a devastating barrage against his fellow hacks ... John F. Burns reveals just how compromised and corrupt so many journalists were in Iraq, how willing they were to hide the atrocities of the regime, how their own self-interest trumped the truth ... If you still harbor doubts about the overwhelming moral case for the liberation of Iraq, you need to read this interview. It's devastating about the mainstream media in the U.S., let alone mouthpieces for tyranny like the BBC."

Even if the left has its head in the sand, Spectator columnist Mark Steyn asserts the American majority has stayed the course in support of the Bush administration's war on terror.

"The story of the summer is that the American people refused to be panicked by the media, the Democrats and the Europeans. Indeed, the awesome divide between the postmodern sophists and everybody else is the real legacy of Sept. 11...

"If 9/11 liberated the Bush administration to put into action its scheme to take over the world, then it also liberated the Western elites to embrace finally and wholeheartedly anti-Americanism as the New Unifying Theory of Everything. It didn't have to be like that: the intellectual class could have sided with the women of Afghanistan or the political prisoners of Iraq. But the advantage of sour oppositionism is that whatever happens there's always something to sneer at. If Osama pops up, see, he got away. If he doesn't pop up, how do you know he didn't get away? If he turns up dead, whoa, now you've made him a martyr, a thousand more will bloom in his dust.

"I think we should look at the late bin Laden in his own terms. In the last decade, he and al-Qaida have bombed American interests a little over every two years..."

Steyn even shrugs off the latest bin Laden videotape, though the CIA tagged it as probably authentic.

"I said in these pages 15 months ago that he's dead, he's bin Laden to rest, he's pushing up daisy-cutters, and I'm sticking with that...

"This is a long war -- but for America, with victories at home, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere, it's been a pretty good start."

Even so, Weekly Standard chief Bill Kristol says America can still take a lesson from the Israelis on fighting terror. He criticizes the Bush administration for not fully backing Israel's desire to banish Yasser Arafat.

"The administration's professed reasons for opposing the removal of Arafat are unimpressive. And they seem altogether de-linked from any underlying moral and strategic judgment of what the war on terror requires, and what those who support and sponsor terror deserve...

"For a decade, Israel bent over backwards to try to engage in a peace process with the chief terrorist of Palestine. Arafat has succeeded in sabotaging the hopes of peace. Justice demands that he be removed. Prudence may well concur. America is engaged in a war against terror. Surely the honorable course is to be a sympathetic counselor of, not a supercilious lecturer to, an embattled fellow democracy that has suffered more terror -- and, yes, has borne it with more forbearance -- than even we have."

Conservatives are moving to exploit Howard Dean's recent ambivalent comments on Israel, given his stance against the war in Iraq. It isn't clear yet whether conservatives fear a Dean presidential bid or are hoping for one. But syndicated talk-radio host and Fox News commentator Hugh Hewitt says the "defeatist" Dean may not even last till year's end:

"The refusal to come to grips with the nature and scale of the war is very dangerous. It is inevitable that a war like this would be open to political attack by self-serving would-be electeds ... I hope that Howard Dean, the distillation of all that is dishonorable in American politics, gets the nomination so that his defeatism disguised as prudence can be well and properly repudiated for history to see...

"[I came back] from vacation in time to see Howard Dean distance himself from Israel on the same day that two homicide bombers renewed the terror. [Dean said recently of the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire, according to the Associated Press: 'I think America needs to be an honest broker' and 'It's not our place to take sides.'] What does 'honest broker' mean? Does it include honestly assessing the nature of the terror and speaking truthfully about the need for the Palestinians to confront their own absolutists? Howard Dean is my preferred opponent for the President in 2004, but with amateurism on this scale, Dean could implode long before Iowa. Lieberman understands the extent of the damage Dean has done to himself and is bearing in on it. This is not a gaffe, but an exposure of an unpreparedness on a scale that is disqualifying."

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Monday's recall of the recall vote in California has poured fuel on the partisan fires blazing there: National Review contributor and California political strategist Arnold Steinberg takes issue with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that unreliable punch-card voting is ample reason to postpone the October special election:

"The judges who just threw out California's recall election are liberal and off the reservation...

"Gray Davis was elected last year with machines that use punch-card voting. I've participated in hundreds of such elections here in California. Why should he not stay in office, or be thrown out of office, on the same system? There are problems with any election system...

"Will the next court decision require voters to be able to spell Arnold's last name?"

Regardless of how the California recall plays out, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan says Gray Davis has taken dangerous measures to shore up voter support, including one that will cause a spike in traffic fatalities.

"Gray Davis is a desperate man. Facing recall, he has just put the safety of California motorists at risk in a naked bid to buy Hispanic votes. Davis signed into law a bill he had twice rejected, to allow illegal aliens to get driver's licenses.

"One million illegals, many of them young, single males, will soon be on the roads of California. Inevitably, the toll of traffic dead will soar and California families will pay in the lives of loved ones so Davis can collect enough Hispanic votes to serve out his term ... The Democratic answer to the invasion of America is: surrender."

National Review editor Rich Lowry agrees that the California governor is a national security threat.

"Gray Davis has signed a bill giving illegal aliens the right to obtain driver's licenses in what is an enormous step toward the legal acceptance of illegal aliens and proof that ethnic pandering still trumps security in the United States...

"It is tempting to conclude that this is another reason why, if the recall fails, California should sink into the Pacific Ocean. But other states accept California driver's licenses, so the Davis sellout affects the nation ... California needs to revoke Gray Davis' license to govern. He's dangerous."

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

MORE FROM Mark Follman

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9/11 Bill O'reilly Fox News National Review Republican Party