After trying a few things, the Bush people have found their swan song: Bush succeeded because we have not suffered another terrorist attack in the United States. And the Bush people are using it in response to any criticism. On Hardball last night, one Bush supporter argued that, by preventing any further terrorist attacks after 9/11, Bush had unified the country. (This was in response Matthews's question of the night about the Bush administration, which was something akin to "Has Bush proved to be a uniter, not a divider?")
This is a standard argument tactic: when all else fails, fall back on what nobody can deny. And nobody can deny that we haven't suffered another terrorist attack in this country. But that hasn't helped some of our fellow citizens. In fact, some of them have endured countless terrorist attacks.
Terrorists have attacked members of our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've attacked them again and again. Terrorists have killed many Americans and wounded many more. And why? Because President Bush sent them into a lion's den of his own making.
In waging these two wars, President Bush ensured that terrorists would succeed in killing and wounding Americans. His incompetence further ensured that those deaths and injuries would far exceed any justifiable number of casualties.
Perhaps noting this bolsters another one of the Bush administration's old saws: if we don't fight them there, we'll have to fight them here. And, to some small degree, that may be true. There may be some terrorists who stayed in Iraq of Afghanistan instead of trying to hatch a plot over here.
But if they stayed, they stayed because President Bush put our soldiers in the middle of a turkey shoot. And whether that kept terrorists in the region or not, nothing can justify it. People who join the military do something that most of us, myself included, will not do: they volunteer to risk their lives for our safety. People who show that courage will sometimes die for it. We can't avoid that. But we should never spend their lives so cheaply.
So, as he leaves, we should all remember how good a friend President Bush has been to terrorists. He has strengthened their hand as he has weakened ours. He has led us into two quagmires, and given terrorists the opportunity to kill our troops and bleed our resources.
And he has destroyed any chance we had in the wake of 9/11 to unite the world in a struggle against terrorism. Such a struggle might have succeeded. It might have won over the world, including most of the Middle East. But we'll never know.
My Dad is fond of saying that political leaders who start wars should be the first ones to fight in them. Belatedly, but in that spirit, perhaps President Bush should head for Afghanistan on January 21. He can climb into the mountains, and, if he's lucky, find Osama bin Laden.
Then, the two of them can sit down for a talk. They can remember the good times, when each made the perfect bogeyman for the other. And they can thank each other for the help in carrying out their crazy ideological agendas, both of which never had anything to do with helping their people in the first place.
So, here's to you, President Bush. The lessons you've taught us have come at far too high a price, but let's hope we finally manage to learn them.