Gazing at the 24/7 news from Pakistan showing the democratic disaster produced by our heralded ally in the war in terror, a thought occurs:

What would George W. Bush and Dick Cheney be saying today if they were campaigning politicians running against a President Clinton (either one of them) who had outsourced our responsibility to retaliate against Osama bin Laden for his 9/11 attacks on our homeland?

What would Karl Rove have been whipping up for Bush to say and what would Cheney (who needs no Roving ambassador) be saying on his own about a president from the other party who had chosen to allow al Qaeda’s leader to escape into Pakistan’s northern tribal areas of Islamic militancy?

What if it were one of the Clintons who had decided not to pursue bin Laden into that safe sanctuary — despite having made these speeches in which he/she properly told the world that he/she would not permit al Qaeda to have a safe sanctuary anywhere?

What if one of the Clintons had made a deal with President/Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan in which Musharraf assured America he would mount a military campaign to drive al Qaeda from the tribal badlands of Pakistan’s north? And Musharraf never made the vigorous fight to get bin Laden that he’d promised — but then made a deal with the tribal leaders in which he said he’d pull his troops back? And America’s helpless president could do nothing but pretend it was OK?

What if the reason a President Clinton hadn’t teamed up to launch a joint military operation with Pakistan to capture bin Laden was that he/she had over-extended the U.S. military and gotten the troops pinned down in Iraq — and had to divert resources from efforts to crush the forces that attacked America’s mainland in 2001 so that in 2007 he/she still couldn’t complete the retaliation he/she had pledged to lead? What if a President Clinton had actually allowed bin Laden to remain at large, videotaping his taunts against America, whose president had vowed to get him, dead or alive, many years ago?

We all know the answer: What Bush-Cheney-Rove and company would have done to either Clinton would have made what they did to one-time Vietnam War POW John McCain, triple-amputee Vietnam veteran Max Cleland and Vietnam Purple Heart medalist John Kerry look like a Crawford, Texas, picnic. They would have accused either Clinton of selling out and ducking out, of cutting and running from the vow to get Osama bin Laden and crush al Qaeda.

A President Clinton would have been accused of being shortsighted and weak-kneed and much worse. And those accusations would have been accurate. For the president who pinned America’s war-on-terror hopes and homeland safety so fervently upon the medals on the generalissimo’s chest has indeed let the country down. Big-time.

The other day down at the ranch in Crawford, President Bush defended Musharraf fervently. “President Musharraf, right after the attacks on September the 11th, made a decision and the decision was to stand with the United States against the extremists inside Pakistan,” Bush told reporters. “In other words, he was given an option: Are you with us or are you not with us? And he made a clear decision to be with us, and he’s acted on that advice.”

Bush-Cheney-Rove would have had America believing that a President Clinton who had done all of the above had sold America and our Star-Spangled Banner to the terrorists. They would have had us distrusting and despising a president who had been so weak after talking so tough.

And they would have been right.

The strange thing about the Democrats who are running full speed for president is that they have not been able to make Americans understand the weakness that its president has demonstrated to the world while posing as a strongman. The leader of the Republican Party that once stood for hard-line military responses in the name of national security has shown the world that it was possible to attack America’s homeland and survive. And even make videotapes taunting America’s commander in chief, six years after the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram(at)

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