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Bill O’Reilly and Ted Kennedy are Wrong

D.M. Giangreco and Kathryn Moore, in the Kansas City Star (April 25, 2004):

Dear Bill & Ted:

You are wrong when you say that the American people will "throw out" George W. Bush if the war is not "won" in the next five months.

Forget what you see in the polls. The American people have no history of getting rid of their presidents in the middle of a war. They certainly did not throw out LBJ --- he lost his nerve and quit. And Nixon? He was reelected as U.S. casualties were in a steep downswing due to the "Vietnamization" policy that saw all-causes deaths drop from 16,508 in 1968 to 551 in 1972. As for Lincoln and Roosevelt, they were both reelected in spite of the fact that their far bloodier wars saw pronounced jumps in casualties during the run-ups to the elections of 1864 and 1944. Roosevelt’s campaign in particular was held in the middle of a year-long "casualty surge" that saw an average of 65,000 young Americans die each and every month from June 1944 thru May 1945.

Your comments to the contrary, Americans have never made one of their leaders "toast" during the middle of a fight. Of course, President Bush can always propel himself into becoming the first by not speaking firmly about how he plans to handle things in Iraq. But despite the focus of the press last week, when trying to lead him to take an Alcoholics Anonymous approach from denial through redemption re his "fault" for 9/11, the plans Bush outlined in his speech seemed pretty specific to us.

The Iraqi Governing Council has approved a timetable which calls for 1) holding elections for a national assembly no later than January 2005; 2) the elected assembly will draft a new, permanent constitution which will be presented to the Iraqi people in a national referendum to be held the following October; and 3) elections for a permanent government will be held two months later on December 15, 2005.

President Bush’s MO is clearly to hold the Iraqis’ feet to the fire on this timetable and he maintains that the election of 2005 will "mark the completion of Iraq's transition from dictatorship to freedom." I suspect that he means what he says. The alternative is some fuzzy reliance on an undefined UN effort to "help" us. Interestingly, none of the reporter’s at the press conference displayed even the slightest interest in the Administration’s plans beyond this June.

It will be the job of President Bush to reach beyond the pack journalism of the elite news outlets to make sure that Americans, the Iraqis --- and the terrorists --- understand that Iraq will not be allowed to be a an open sore.