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Some straight talk - at last

The president finally moves decisively on two critical fronts

Issue: "Into the light," Dec. 3, 2005

In this space just three and four issues back (Nov. 5 and Nov. 12), I called as strongly as I knew how for some of our friends in high places-not our opponents, mind you, but our friends-to start engaging in some "straight talk." Frustration on two fronts had set in, and I suggested it was time to remember the Bible's direct teaching: "Let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."

The main frustration occasioning that call was the pussyfooting so apparent in the nomination of Harriet Miers for a position on the U.S. Supreme Court. Harriet Miers may possibly, had she been confirmed, have become precisely the evangelical Protestant Christian voice on the high court some of us have called for from time to time. But I said here on that issue: "It wasn't Harriet Miers, and it wasn't her liberal opponents, who looked weak or silly over the last few weeks. It was a political party, and its leadership, that claims to believe something important and then gets terribly squeamish when it comes time to do something about it."

The other frustration was over the administration's parallel quiet while its opponents were running rampant with their charges of dishonesty over policies in Iraq. Why not speak up?

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Since then, of course, a couple of dramatic things have happened-and they're both very much for the good.

First, when Harriet Miers withdrew her name from nomination, President Bush wasted no time going for a high-profile pro-lifer-and spent no time at all waffling or pretending he had done otherwise. It makes you wonder why he wasted time trying so hard to finesse the Miers nomination.

At the very same time, the president has come out at last with at least one if not both guns blazing in defense of his policies in Iraq, and their integrity. It's about time. This is a strange scenario indeed. We have a president who has pursued the right and important thing in the defense of the nation he heads, only to be cowed in the justification of what he has done. More and more in recent months, he has let a lying opposition put him on the defensive with the charge that he himself is a liar. It was past time for him to get up and show vigorously that he was right.

Even now, his defense is skinnier than his actions and policy deserve. For example, when he keeps arguing that his Democratic opponents themselves believed that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction, he allows the nation to conclude that such was the only issue. The likelihood of an actual WMD presence in Iraq was certainly one cause for seeking to overthrow Saddam-but it was by no means the only reason.

Clearly, the American public needs to be taught on both issues. With reference to nominations to the Supreme Court, they need to be taught that none of Mr. Bush's top candidates for the high court are as "extreme" as the appointments made by President Clinton during the 1990s. They're "extreme," of course, by the standards of the media bringing you that news. But of the hundred and more nominations Mr. Bush has already made to all levels of the federal judiciary, you'll find men and women absolutely in tune with majority views as reflected by polls of the American public.

With reference to Iraq, the president could do worse than to pass on to that same American public the arguments Mr. Clinton made only last year in favor of supporting the Bush program. "After 9/11," Mr. Clinton said in Time magazine, "let's be fair here, if you had been president, you'd think, Well, this fellow bin Laden just turned these three airplanes full of fuel into weapons of mass destruction, right? Arguably, they were super powerful chemical weapons. Think about it that way. So, you're sitting there as president, you're reeling in the aftermath of this, so, yeah, you want to go get bin Laden and do Afghanistan and all that. But you also have to say, 'Well, my first responsibility is to try everything possible to make sure that this terrorist and other terrorist networks cannot reach chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material. I've got to do that.' That's why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for."

So come on, Mr. President. You've got lots of support-even in unexpected places. Let your "yea" be yea, and you might be surprised to see how many will follow your lead.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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