Turn up the heat now
Carlton M. Caves
2004 October 2

It's time now to turn up the heat on George W. Bush. His demeanor---grim, annoyed, rattled---in Thursday night's debate shows he can't take it, and there's a reason why he can't. Finally away from the adoring pre-selected crowds that are the only people allowed to get close to him on the campaign trail, finally unable to use the White House as a bunker to shield himself from hard questions, the President wilted when confronted with even a few questions about the utter failures of his administration. Aside from any exchange on the issues, the importance of the first debate was to get the American public's attention focused at last on the fact that the President has a lot to answer for and that he doesn't have any answers. Senator Kerry and the Democrats must now turn up the heat full blast and drive the President out of the kitchen on November 2.

Now that the American public has been engaged, the question that Senator Kerry ought to be pressing relentlessly on the President goes like this: "Mr. President, the American public would like to know if the current situation in Iraq is where you intended to be a year and a half after invading the country. Did you intend that there be a growing insurgency, which places the success of the entire operation in peril? Did you intend that our troops face mounting casualties every month, with no clear idea of how and when we're going to get them out of there? Did you intend that major parts of the country be out of our control, serving as havens and recruiting grounds for terrorists? Because if this is what you intended, you sure didn't tell the American people that's what lay ahead. And if it's not what you intended, what went wrong, and what are you doing to fix it? I'm going to tell you what I think. This is certainly not what you intended, but you haven't leveled with the American people about the current situation and how we got into it. What went wrong is that you and your administration didn't have a plan for securing and rebuilding the country and making it ready for a transition to Iraqi rule. During the first three months after the initial hostilities ended, during that hot Iraqi summer of 2003, you were too busy prancing around in a flight suit declaring 'Mission Accomplished' to think about producing a plan to win the peace. So Iraqis became increasingly dissatisfied with our occupation, the insurgency started, and you've been backtracking ever since. The failure of you and your administration to have a plan, despite the fact that many people inside and outside government knew what needed to be done, has led to the present chaotic situation, in which our troops face growing opposition every day. Mr. President, you are responsible for the present situation and the new perils faced by our troops, but you stubbornly refuse even to confront the situation honestly so that we can move forward with trying to address it."

There will be time to turn the spotlight on the President's other failures during the next few weeks before the election, but right now, while the public is paying attention, is the time to turn up the heat on Iraq, to confront the President with the utter failure of his administration's policies in Iraq, and to expose the sham behind the idea that he has been or will be good for our national security.

The President's goose is cooked if the public can be persuaded to focus on his administrations's record of mendacity, incompetence, and failure, so, yes, turn up the heat to high and keep it there.

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