McConnell calls Bush criticism 'nonsense'

March 21, 2004|HERB BROCK

Not long after President Bush delivered his address to the nation from the White House Friday, he might have been able to hear an echo a few hundred miles away at the Danville Country Club.

That's where fellow Republican Mitch McConnell, Kentucky's senior U.S. senator, also gave a speech strongly supporting the United States' war on terrorism and what the administration considers a key part of that effort, the war in Iraq. In a speech to the Danville Rotary Club, McConnell also criticized the critics of Bush's anti-terrorism and Iraq policies but did not name them.

Both Bush's and McConnell's speeches were delivered on the one-year anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq.

"Those questioning whether or not the war (on terrorism and in Iraq) has been successful and whether the world is a safer place than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, are beyond my understanding," the senator said.


"To suggest that we are not safer than we were (on Sept. 11, 2001) is utter nonsense, just utter nonsense," he said.

On the day after the terrorist attack on the United States, McConnell said, the president had to decide whether the country should regard the matter as a law enforcement issue or a military matter.

"As a police issue, we would have regarded the terrorists as criminals, made sure their trials were fair and then hand out Johnny Cochran's business cards to all of them. Or, we could do as the president did and regard the killing of 3,000 innocent people as an act of war and develop a policy accordingly," he said, likening 9/11 to such past momentous and memorable events as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy.

Noting that it's NCAA tourney time, the senator compared Bush's policy to a basketball team's game plan.

"To be a good team, you need a strong defense and a strong offense. A good defense is important but you can't score any points if you're always on defense," he said. "The president went on the offense, going to where the terrorists are instead of waiting for them to return, and has scored many points."

McConnell then cited some of those points as he trumpeted what he said were numerous achievements produced from the Bush policy. Those achievements, he said, include the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and the development of democracy in both countries, including freedom of the press, free elections and rights women have never enjoyed. He said he visited both countries in October and observed first-hand many positive events that, he charged, aren't widely reported in the media.

"With the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan, Saddam in a jail cell and al Qaida seriously damaged, anyone who would suggest that we are not safer than we were on Sept. 11, 2001, must be on some other planet," he said.

McConnell also applauded anti-terrorism efforts in America, saying he new Homeland Security department and intelligence agencies have done a good job protecting the country internally. He said no one can say that there never will be another terrorist attack on the U.S., but he noted that, because of efforts on both the home front and the fronts in the Middle East, there has not been an attack since the big two and a half years ago.

Referring to this year's presidential election, McConnell said it will be up to the voters to decide whether Bush's policy is correct and the results of it worth the sacrifice of more than 500 American lives.

"The war on terrorism is the most important issue (in the election campaign). Everything else pales in comparison," he said, adding that political opponents of the president "will want to change the subject" largely because they don't want to shine the spotlight on the president's greatest political strength.

McConnell said many of those opponents would rather discuss the economy than the war, but he said the news for Bush is good on that issue as well, despite what the president's critics and many the media are saying.

After a "mild recession" at the beginning of the Bush administration and nearly two years of "slow growth," the economy over the last several months has become "robust" with high productivity, a strong stock market and unemployment rates comparable to those recorded in the booming '90s.

"Unemployment today stands at 5.6 percent. That is lower than the average unemployment rates for the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and it is the same rate that was on the books in 1996 when Bill Clinton, in his re-election campaign, bragged about the country having such a strong economy."

The Danville Country Club was one of several stops McConnell made in the area Friday. During a whirlwind tour, he also spoke at Danville High School to DHS and Boyle County High School seniors and dropped by Mercer County.

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