Friday, August 29, 2008

Crying Wolf on the Economy While Ignoring Real Pains

Linda Chavez
Friday, August 29, 2008

America is in its darkest hour -- again. It happens every four years when the Democrats take center stage for their national convention. In 2004, we heard that we were in the midst of another Great Depression. For the last week, we've heard more economic doom and gloom. It must have been disappointing news to Dems to read on Thursday that the U.S. economy grew 3.3 percent in the second quarter. It's hard to turn those numbers into a recession, much less a depression. But if the Democrats see disaster on every domestic front, they seem oblivious to the real threats to the United States. There was hardly a word about terrorism, and scant mention of national security during the weeklong gabfest. Wednesday's proceedings, which convention organizers had promised was going to be devoted to national security themes, barely touched on the issue. That is unless you think Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks are experts on national security. The Spielberg film tribute to American soldiers, narrated by Hanks, was an interesting take on America's mission in Iraq. Apparently we sent soldiers there not to liberate the country and take down a brutal dictator but to see how many young Americans we could maim or send home in caskets.

The most glaring omission, however, was in Sen. Joe Biden's speech. Barack Obama picked Biden as his running mate largely because Biden's strength on foreign policy issues balanced Obama's obvious weakness in this arena. Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spent most of his time spinning folksy stories about his working-class background and making digs at his "friend" John McCain. Biden devoted less than a paragraph of his long, rambling speech to national security and foreign policy.

He was quick to blame the Bush administration for failing "to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China, and India as great powers … and the emergence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front in the war on terror." But he offered no inkling of what Barack Obama and he would do differently. And what we know of Obama's thoughts on these issues isn't comforting. To date, Obama has waxed both belligerent and timid on Pakistan and Russia.

A year ago, Obama said that he'd be willing to attack targets in Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistan government, "if we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets." Pretty bellicose rhetoric aimed at a U.S. ally. But when Russia invaded Georgia, Obama suddenly became more reticent -- except to suggest that maybe it was George Bush's fault (isn't everything). After first suggesting that Russia and Georgia ought to sit down to negotiate their differences, as if the two countries were equally to blame for Russia's invasion, Obama later said: "We've got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can't charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point."

But what are the Democrats' plans to keep the country safe from the very real peril of international terrorism? During Bill Clinton's eight years in office, al-Qaida was plotting an even more spectacular attack on the World Trade Center than its first bombing in 1993. But the past seven years under President Bush have seen the dismemberment of al-Qaida and its diminishing influence even among Islamist radicals. The Democrats want to downplay the success of the war on terror, but how will they ensure that Americans will be as safe under a President Obama?

And how will the Obama-Biden team confront Russia? The Russians seem intent on sparking a new Cold War. We won the last one by building a military force with which the Soviets couldn't compete. But Democrats are traditionally loathe to invest in new weapons systems and want to raise taxes for domestic spending, not to insure the finest military in the world. Are Democrats really up to the task of keeping the Russian Bear in check?

Democrats had a week to describe how Barack Obama would step into the role of commander in chief come January. They failed to do so. Now it's up to American voters to decide whether they're willing to make a leap of faith that Obama's up to the job.

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