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Rather Than Exploiting Memory of 9/11, GOP Should Learn from 9/12

Tonight, President Bush will plead his case on Iraq to the American people at the home of the 82nd Airborne Division. Elements of that division have been to Iraq twice and elements are in Afghanistan now. With the insurgency in full gear, Bush hopes to persuade Americans that our troops are winning the war on terror. I am sure the president, based on remarks he made last week, will also ask Americans to remain patient as the new Iraqi government continues to make incremental progress in rebuilding its country. Perhaps the president should also ask Americans to remain unified in our resolve to win the war on terror. [IMGCAP(1)]

Last week, one of the GOP’s most brilliant political strategists and a friend, Karl Rove, jumped the gun and sent the first shot across the aisle when he denounced some liberals for wanting to “prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” Based on a copy of the remarks I received from his office, Rove was referring to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, filmmaker Michael Moore and as examples of those allegedly being weak or tepid when it comes to fighting the war on terror.

Democrats on Capitol Hill and across the country were quick to pounce on Rove’s comments, and some even called for his resignation. The White House and Capitol Hill rallied around the architect of Bush’s political world and by the weekend, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld laughed the comments off on Sunday’s talk shows as mere politics. Well, it’s true that the remarks were political and aimed at defining liberalism as becoming irrelevant, but they are not a laughing matter. Rove’s scathing remarks on liberals struck a nerve, and Democrats were right to ask for an apology.

Rove understands that when it comes to national security and homeland defense, the Republicans have played up their strength and downplayed Democratic resolve to stand with the president on winning the war on terror. The problem with the analysis is that when it comes to national security, many Democrats have stood tall — even when the evidence they were presented was later proved to be false and wrong.

None of us will ever forget the horror that befell our nation on Sept. 11, 2001, nor will we allow the evil that brought us that horror to survive long in this world. Many of our finest (liberals, conservatives or just plain American citizens) were taken from us on that fateful day. Each of us was touched, and none of our lives will ever be the same because of it. But, as indelible as 9/11 has become, it is important that Bush, Rove and others also remember the day that followed. It was the start of America rising together, not as partisans, but as true patriots to defend our homeland.

What Rove, Bush and many other Republicans want Democrats to do is to go back to Sept. 10. Then, as now, our country was bitterly divided along partisan lines because of the lack of presidential leadership. We Americans seemed to travel in separate circles, making caricatures of those whose lives differed from our own.

Liberals — notwithstanding our cherished principles of opportunity, equality, prosperity, responsibility and security for all — also stand up for our troops and regard America’s military strength as a force to be used only when warranted. The war in Iraq was wrong, but we are there now.

It’s stupid to go back and debate whether it was right to go into Iraq — we’re there and we need to win. Tonight the president has a chance to speak honestly with us and to tell us the plan, going forward, for winning. Tell us the strategy and tell us the signs to look for to know when our troops will be able to come home. We deserve to know the truth, not the spin.

Our nation looks to our president to extol our essential unity, to further our mutual dreams and to celebrate the diversity of ideas that enrich the very fabric of America. As citizens, we deserve better than an administration and governing party that praises each other even when they are wrong, while scorning those who might differ with them.

As much as 9/11 showed us America’s vulnerability, on the next day, we all showed Americans’ strength. As I recall it, we liberals were united on the steps of the Capitol, with conservatives and moderates, weeping and mourning, but standing together. No matter what Rove said or whether he apologizes, no one can take that from us.

Sept. 12 seems all but forgotten today with our nation again rife with division after nearly three years of bitter partisanship. But, America rose together on Sept. 12, and we can still reach back to learn the lessons of leadership. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all standing together to win the war on terror. It’s time the GOP stops exploiting the memory of 9/11 and remember the lessons of 9/12.

Donna L. Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grass-roots political consulting firm.

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