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The Osama Litmus Test



Bush's response yesterday to the video was exactly right. He said we would not be intimidated. He tried to take the video out of the realm of crass politics by mentioning Kerry by name and assuring the country that he was sure Kerry agreed with him.


Kerry did say that we are all united in the fight against bin Laden, but he just couldn't help himself. His first instinct was to get political.


On Milwaukee television, he used the video as an occasion to attack the president: "He didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down Osama bin Laden. He outsourced the job." Kerry continued with a little riff from his stump speech, "I am absolutely confident I have the ability to make America safer."



But politics has shaped Kerry's approach to this whole issue. Back in December 2001, when bin Laden was apparently hiding in Tora Bora, Kerry supported the strategy of using Afghans to hunt him down. He told Larry King that our strategy "is having its impact, and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way."


But then the political wind shifted, and Kerry recalculated. Now Kerry calls the strategy he supported "outsourcing." When we rely on allies everywhere else around the world, that's multilateral cooperation, but when Bush does it in Afghanistan, it's "outsourcing." In Iraq, Kerry supports using local troops to chase insurgents, but in Afghanistan he is in post hoc opposition.


This is why Kerry is not cleaning Bush's clock in this election. Many people are not sure that he gets the fundamental moral confrontation. Many people are not sure he feels it, or feels anything. Since he joined the Senate, what cause has he taken a political risk for? Has he devoted himself selflessly and passionately to any movement larger than himself?


We are revealed by what we hate. When it comes to Osama bin Laden, Kerry hasn't revealed whatever it is that lies inside.




Politicizing The Bin Laden Tape

By William Kristol and Stephen F. Hayes


The Bush campaign wisely avoided going political. But the Kerry campaign--in comments from a top adviser and the candidate himself--did not.


Kerry gave what appear to be his first extemporaneous comments about the tape in a previously scheduled satellite interview with Kathy Mykleby, a veteran anchor with WISN TV in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



But Kerry finally couldn't resist politicizing the tape: "I am prepared to wage a more effective war on terror than George Bush," he added.


Kerry's comment was unfortunate, and mild compared to those made later in the day by his senior foreign policy adviser, Richard Holbrooke. In an appearance on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Holbrooke, who has rejected the notion that we are in a "war on terror," said this:


"The U.S. is determined to defeat al Qaeda and its allies and the war against their use of terrorist tactics."


Holbrooke then went on the attack. "The tape shows that he's still around. We should have captured him and we haven't. And the other thing it shows, illustrates a key point which is that Senator Kerry in his relentless pursuit of terrorism is going to be very aggressive. The tape doesn't show that but Senator Kerry's comments continually--his experience shows that Osama bin Laden will draw no comfort from a Kerry presidency."



Blitzer: "Are you concerned though that when Americans see this videotape--it'll be all over the news media as you can imagine, not only today but in the days to come--they will be reminded of what happened on 9/11 and they'll say, 'You know what, I'd better vote for Bush because he's tougher in dealing with al Qaeda than Kerry.'"


Said Holbrooke: "I don't think so. I think it also raises a much deeper question: How can this grotesque mass murderer be out there on worldwide television more than three years after 9/11?"


Holbrooke punctuated the next sentence with exasperated pauses between his words. "Why--haven't--we--captured--him--if the Bush administration was going to be so effective in the war on terror? President Bush said in the debates that he's rolled up 75 percent of al Qaeda. Well, it sure doesn't sound like it now."


When Blitzer pointed out that Bush claimed to have captured or killed 75 percent of "al Qaeda leadership," Holbrooke scoffed. "He did not say 'leadership' at all. And how does he know? And as Secretary Rumsfeld himself said in that leaked memo, 'Aren't we creating more terrorists than we're killing?'"



Is there any development in the war on terror, however grave, that the Kerry campaign won't try to exploit for partisan advantage?

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