First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Wartime Elections; Slippery Slopes
I know there's an election going on, and if you're on the Left and you think George W. Bush is the devil's own grandfather, then you've got to do whatever it takes to win.
Still, it's worth remembering that we do have soldiers in the field of battle.
And nothing encourages our enemies and helps rally them to their cause than to see President Bush being pilloried for imaginary "crimes" like not being able to guess what our enemies are going to do next, or not being able to get France to do what we want. (Heck, even the French President can't get France to do what he wants.)
There used to be a tradition during wartime elections, to say nothing in a campaign that would encourage the enemy to keep on fighting in hopes that the current president would be defeated.
After all, the chief guru of our enemies, Osama bin Laden, holds as the first principle of making war on the U.S. that if you just draw enough blood, and keep it going on long enough, America will lose courage and go down to defeat.
As proof, he could cite our withdrawals from Lebanon and Somalia after terrorist attacks there.
President Bush really took the wind out of his sails for a while there. But now the American Left is doing its best to make Osama look absolutely right.
It's one thing to criticize actual policy decisions -- that's legitimate, and it has happened in every war. No President should ever be above question, just because there's a war on (though Clinton certainly tried to wrap himself in the mantle of "fighting a war" during his impeachment).
However, the questions should be serious and important. Not ridiculous political mudslinging that is without any real point except to try to sway the electorate. That's what these 9/11 hearings have become -- a device for generating propaganda to encourage our terrorist enemies to think that America might not stick with this war.
Ditto with the recent press conference, where reporters actually demanded that the President apologize for the attack on the World Trade Center, so they could generate the absurd footage of the President either apologizing or refusing to apologize, either one of which would damage not just him, but our war effort.
Since all these Leftists pretend to "support our troops," why don't they live up to that, and stop making substanceless attacks on dead issues?
And if John Kerry were actually concerned about our troops and about the war on terror, he would make the unequivocal statement in every speech that no matter who wins the election, America will fight the war on terror -- including the campaign in Iraq -- to the end. "We'll only go home when the terrorism stops," he should say.
Then, instead of gaining encouragement and recruits from America's political process, the terrorists might begin to see the handwriting on the wall.
Of course, Kerry should only say that if it's true. Because in all likelihood, if he's elected he would almost certainly adopt policies that would effectively end the war on terror well short of victory. We'd go right back to the bandaid approach to terrorism used by our previous presidents -- including Reagan and Bush Sr., as well as Clinton.
It's worth remembering that in 1864, there was a peace candidate named George McClellan. Once a popular general who even defeated Lee at Antietam, McClellan ran with the promise that he'd negotiate an end to the bloody Civil War and bring our soldiers home.
Of course, a negotiated settlement would perforce have left slavery intact in the South and left the Union broken into two countries. In other words, the only possible "negotiated settlement" was to give up on the only two issues that mattered in the war.
McClellan was defeated. But it was a close election.
There are a lot more parallels, actually, to that pivotal wartime election of 1864. Our President back then was a Republican who was vilified as a monster or baboon, as an idiot or bumpkin by his oh-so-sophisticated enemies. He was accused of bungling the war and he was mocked for his countrified speech and good-ol'-boy sense of humor.
But it's his face we see on our pennies and five-dollar bills. Because he fought that just war --the bloodiest in our history -- to the only conclusion that would have left us a chance to be a great nation. His opponent never would have.
I'm not saying W. is any Abraham Lincoln -- though he might yet turn out to be. But I definitely am saying that his opponent this year is a George B. McClellan, but with less charisma and poorer military credentials. He's running on a platform of ending our war on terrorism by losing it.
Now we just have to wait and see if the American people are as smart as the voters in 1864 were.
Of course, that election came down to the votes of the soldiers. Remember that Florida recount in 2000? One of Al Gore's techniques in his attempt to steal the election was to try to disqualify the votes of soldiers.
That's because the Left knows who it is who fights and dies for our country, with our all-volunteer military. Overwhelmingly, it's soldiers who believe America stands for something worth fighting for.
If it was up to our military to decide between "war hero" Kerry and "slacker" Bush as their commander-in-chief, take a wild guess which they'd vote for. Like Lincoln, Bush had little real military experience. But, like Lincoln, he's able to lead a high-powered cabinet in conducting a difficult war with a relentless sense of purpose.
If we win this thing and make not just America, but the whole ungrateful world safer from organized Muslim terrorism, it'll be because we had the sense to vote only for candidates who promised to prosecute the war until we achieve victory.
Tragically, there's only one such candidate in this election.
You know what? I'm sick of the term "slippery slope."
Whenever somebody speaks in favor of moderating one of the extremist laws enacted by our judiciary -- you know, the ones that nobody ever actually voted for, but which are now part of our imaginary "Constitution" -- there are immediately dire warnings that to relax the law in even the slightest degree is to step on the top of a "slippery slope" that will inevitably cause us to slide all the way down to the opposite extreme.
Thus, if somebody tries to make reasonable, socially responsible decisions on public decency -- like keeping really ugly language and nudity off broadcast television -- at once we're warned that this is the first step on a "slippery slope" that will lead us straight to Nazi- or Communist- or Puritan-style censorship.
Likewise, if somebody proposes anything that might stop some portion of the ongoing abortion slaughterhouse, at once we're warned that any restriction on abortion will quickly lead to "back alley abortions killing thousands of women."
Of course, there are more girl babies aborted in China in a month than there were adult women who died in the whole history of "back alley" abortions in America. But leaving that aside, let's just recognize that the "slippery slope" only happens when judges are making laws.
When legislators make the law, it's rare to see truly extreme positions enacted into law -- and when they are, the legislators, being responsible to the voters, quickly ameliorate the law until it resolves itself back into a comfortable middle ground.
Only judges can afford to take extreme positions and ram them down people's throats. So only judges actually exemplify the "slippery slope" in the real world.
The clearest example is the original judicial diktat legalizing abortion in 1973. The original decision only allowed abortion in the first trimester. Since then, without a single law enacted by any legislative body to liberalize abortion (but plenty of restrictive ones that got struck down by the judges), we now find ourselves at the point where fully viable babies can be murdered by the doctor in mid-birth.
Now that was a slippery slope, folks! Once the judges set their feet on the abortion slide, it was straight to the bottom in no time.
In the real world, the laws that work are the ones that protect society without outraging the extremes too much. And laws like that emerge, not from judges, but from legislators who are worried about the next election. They steer for the middle ground. They avoid both extremes.
Instead of a slippery slope, legislators live on a see-saw. There's a constant balancing, a back and forth. And that's why our real Constitution -- you know, the one that was written down and ratified instead of being made up in judges' heads -- left law-making in the hands of people we could fire in any election year.
So whenever somebody starts warning you about the "slippery slope," you can be sure of this: They are defending an extremist position, and the only way they can persuade people not to return to the middle ground is by pretending that the opposite extreme is the only alternative.
It's never the only alternative, in a democracy.
Copyright © 2004 by Orson Scott Card.
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