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Time to put a stop to the 'gotcha' game


ARLINGTON, Va. - Democrats, after taking it on the chin over Sen. Richard J. Durbin's remarks comparing U.S. interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to those used by Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, are trying to change the subject by jumping all over White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

In a speech June 22 to the Conservative Party of New York, Mr. Rove drew what he said was a distinction "between conservatives and liberals" in national security. He said, "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

Mr. Rove added, "Conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban. ... Liberals believed it was time to submit a petition."

Democrats cried foul, and worse, but Mr. Rove wasn't talking about Democrats, not all of whom are liberal. He was talking about liberals - and he was right, at least about some of the more prominent ones.

Liberal groups opposed military action against the Taliban after 9/11. circulated a petition appealing to the president to use "moderation and restraint in responding to the recent terrorist attacks against the United States." And billionaire George Soros said, "War is a false and misleading metaphor in the context of combating terrorism."

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat and a liberal, said, "Afghanistan may be an incubator of terrorism, but it doesn't follow that we bomb Afghanistan." Now there is a man in need of therapy.

That great spiritual guru and camera-chaser, the Rev. Al Sharpton, engaged in liberalism's favorite pastime: Blaming America first. Mr. Sharpton said the attacks on the World Trade Center were evidence that "America is beginning to reap what it has sown."

Mr. Rove didn't mention Democrats, so if the Democratic leadership responded to his critique of liberals, I guess those feigning outrage must be considered liberals.

There are few, if any, statements I could find from any leftist organization endorsing military action as a response to the 9/11 attacks. Virtually all of them urged the type of approach to the killers that Karl Rove ridiculed in his speech.

There is a big difference between Mr. Durbin's remarks, which called into question the tactics and honor of American military interrogators at Guantanamo (for which Mr. Durbin has apologized, sort of) and Mr. Rove's remarks about a general philosophical difference between liberals and conservatives over the response to 9/11.

Senator Durbin is an elected official who should know not only that such comments are wrong, but also that they help the enemy. Remarks such as those from Mr. Durbin and other vocal war opponents are played throughout the Middle East and encourage those killing and trying to kill American forces to continue the job.

This is the valid comparison between Vietnam and Iraq. Political and media opposition wears down public support and gives psychological aid and comfort to the enemy, who thinks he just has to hang on a short while longer and America will leave with its tail between its legs.

This "gotcha" sound-bite game must stop. Now some liberal Democrats are calling for Mr. Rove to resign. How about everybody resigning? We can start over and rebuild the government the way the founders intended. If that's not going to happen, can we please lay off this childish rhetorical back-and-forth and get back to killing insurgents and capturing terrorists?

This isn't and shouldn't be about politics. This is about victory over the enemy, which will take a lot of energy and commitment. Right now, energy and commitment are being wasted on petty political yapping that helps no one, except our enemies.

Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun.

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