Friday, September 17

ChiTrib: Bush's Spine is Limp Spaghetti

Not an exact quote, but that's the gist of this.
How tough is Bush, really?

Anyone looking at his record on defense and foreign policy can see that Bush indeed has flinched and yielded, time after time. What this president has proven is that Republicans can routinely get away with behavior that, in a Democrat, would be labeled wimpy.

Most people have long forgotten the crisis that erupted early in his term, when a U.S. spy plane landed in China after colliding with a Chinese fighter. When Beijing demanded an apology before it would release the crew, Bush refused, only to back down. In the end, the administration issued a letter saying it was "very sorry" for the plane's intrusion.

Early on, Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and emerged glowing with admiration: "I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. ... I was able to get a sense of his soul." Apparently his glimpse into Putin's soul missed the Russian leader's authoritarian tendencies. Those became hard to ignore this week when he proposed to strengthen his own power--dismaying democracy advocates in Russia, but drawing no rebuke from Bush.

Nor was Bush fiercely resolute in confronting Al Qaeda. He came into office only three months after the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. At first, it was uncertain who carried out the bombing, but by the time Bush arrived, the CIA had pinned the blame on Osama bin Laden. Yet Bush let the attack go unavenged.

That's ancient history, you say? He proved his ferocity in Afghanistan and Iraq, you say? To some extent, that's true. At the same time, his refusal to send large numbers of ground troops into Afghanistan allowed bin Laden and many of his confederates to slip the noose.

He also declined to provide a sufficient force in Iraq to assure peace and order, giving our enemies ample opportunity to mobilize against us--as they did, and as they continue to do. If a Democratic president had fallen so conspicuously short in these military ventures, Republicans would portray him as a girlie man.

The administration's supporters can claim that Bush has done his best in playing a very weak hand, and that former President Bill Clinton didn't succeed in stopping them either. But the inescapable fact is that Bush has failed to prevent two dangerous regimes from becoming even more dangerous.

Bush, we are told, is a tough man for tough times. But his record suggests one of two things: Either he isn't that tough, or toughness isn't much of a solution.