Bolting for Bush

By Edward I. Koch

Published January 09, 2004, issue of January 09, 2004.
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I am a lifelong Democrat. I was elected to New York’s City Council, Congress and three terms as mayor of New York City on the Democratic Party line. I believe in the values of the Democratic Party as articulated by Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and by Senators Hubert Humphrey, Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Our philosophy is: “If you need a helping hand, we will provide it.” The Republican Party’s philosophy, on the other hand, can be summed up as: “If I made it on my own, you will have to do the same.”

Nevertheless, I intend to vote in 2004 to reelect President Bush. I will do so despite the fact that I do not agree with him on any major domestic issue, from tax policy to the recently enacted prescription drug law. These issues, however, pale in importance beside the menace of international terrorism, which threatens our very survival as a nation. President Bush has earned my vote because he has shown the resolve and courage necessary to wage the war against terrorism.

The Democratic presidential contenders, unfortunately, inspire no such confidence. With the exception of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who has no chance of winning, the Democrats have decided that in order to get their party’s nomination, they must pander to its radical left wing. As a result, the Democratic candidates, even those who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, have attacked the Bush administration for its successful effort to remove a regime that was a sponsor of terrorism and a threat to world peace.

The Democrat now leading in the race, former governor Howard Dean, is a disgrace. His willingness to publicly entertain the slander that President Bush had advance warning of the September 11 attacks and his statement that America is no safer as a result of the capture of Saddam Hussein should have been sufficient to end his candidacy. But the radicals who dominate the primaries love the red meat that is thrown to them, even when it comes from a mad cow.

In contrast, President Bush has confronted the terrorist threat head on. Immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the president presented the core principle of what has become known as the Bush Doctrine, an articulation of American foreign policy that rivals in importance the Monroe Doctrine, which barred foreign imperialism from the Western Hemisphere, and the Truman Doctrine, which sought to contain communism around the world. The Bush Doctrine, simply stated by the president, is: “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

President Bush has lived up to that credo. Under his leadership, Afghanistan was liberated from Al Qaeda’s patron, the Taliban. The president also has demonstrated, through the liberation of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, that he is willing to wage a preemptive war when he believes the national interests of the United States are endangered.

Even if we never find weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq — though I think that we will — our military campaign for regime change was justified. If the bodies of a quarter-million Iraqi dissenters killed by Saddam, some tortured with their eyes gouged and tongues cut out, is not proof enough, there is still Saddam’s undisputed use of weapons of mass destruction against his own people and Iran. That record is why Congress overwhelmingly voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

It is not only in Afghanistan and Iraq that President Bush has risen to meet challenges presented by our increasingly dangerous world. When the president labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea an “axis of evil,” many commentators mocked him. When he threatened Syria, Iran and Libya with serious consequences if they continued to support terrorist groups, there were those who denounced him for being too bellicose. Now, however, it appears that the president’s hard line has begun to pay off. Recently, Libya agreed to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs and allow in international inspectors. There are even indications that Iran and possibly North Korea may permit international inspection of their nuclear programs.

Nor have the president’s critics stopped him from standing up for American interests. Many of those who oppose the Bush Doctrine also criticize the president’s opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court and his decision to withdraw the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. These actions, however, are well-grounded.

President Bush was correct to oppose the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty would have exempted China and India, which have a combined population of more than 2 billion and are among the world’s largest polluters.

As for the new International Criminal Court, it would be downright irresponsible to give this new tribunal the right to indict and try our military personnel for war crimes, given all the enmity directed at the United States nowadays. Instead we should continue to rely on our military justice system, which has an excellent reputation.

President Bush also was right to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. That treaty would have prevented the United States from deploying a shield against nuclear missiles that could be launched by rogue states or terrorists. The president’s critics can pontificate about the importance of international institutions all they want, but we have to face facts. North Korea has nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Pakistan not only has nuclear weapons, but is suspected of having provided nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran. The two recent assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf highlight the dangers we face. Should Musharraf be removed or killed, no one knows who will ultimately control Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. It would have been negligent for President Bush to allow our hands to remain tied at a time when we need to be exploring every option to defend ourselves.

This record and the Democratic candidates’ irresponsible rhetoric are the reasons why I will vote for a second term for President Bush. This does not mean, however, that I have given up on my party and its principles. To the contrary, I will continue to fight against the president’s domestic agenda. I also hope to support the Democratic effort to take back the presidency in 2008, but it is up to the Democratic Party to show that it can be entrusted with our nation’s security.

Edward I. Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, is a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave.

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