The man nobody at the Washington Post can really classify, the reporter/columnist Dana Milbank, has his page 2 "Washington Sketch" column Wednesday on the hot Democratic anger topic: "The arrival of Treason Season, heralded by the charged address President Bush gave on Monday's 9/11 anniversary, is right on schedule."
The liberal Democrat-media complex was abuzz yesterday about the Republicans charging the Democrats with being solicitous of terrorists. This, to anyone who's read the Rich Noyes Special Report, is obvious: Democrats and their media pals have appeared much more concerned about protecting the procedural liberties of terror suspects than they are with protecting the American people from another successful terror plot. Think specifically of the NSA's surveillance of phone calls to suspected al-Qaeda contacts. Milbank explained what so offended the Dems:
"I listen to my Democrat friends, and I wonder if they're more interested in protecting terrorists than in protecting the American people," he [House Majority Leader John Boehner] said.
One of his listeners, offering Boehner the chance to rescind that charge, asked if he really meant to accuse Democrats of treason. "I said I wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorists," he replied, repeating more than clarifying. "They certainly don't want to take the terrorists on in the field."
The majority leader's charge of treachery was no accident. Two months before Election Day, Republicans have revived the technique used with great success in 2002 and 2004: suggesting that the loyal opposition is, well, not so loyal.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) seemed to have the same talking points yesterday. In a fight for his political life, Santorum worked himself into a rage on the Senate floor, hollering: "If you listen to the Democratic leader, our lesson is: . . . Let's put domestic politics ahead of the security of this country. That's the message."
Milbank and others are exaggerating the Republican remarks. They're not saying the Democrats love terrorists. They're saying the Democrats seem soft on defending the country against terror threats. They're not for "treason" or "sedition." They're for handling the Gitmo Korans with the most gingerly of hands, which doesn't look like kicking butt and taking names. It's not a war on terror, it's tea time with the ACLU.
The outrage extended, predictably, to the White House press corps, as Milbank reported:
The flap landed 90 minutes later on Tony Snow's podium in the makeshift White House briefing room. The spokesman declined multiple invitations from the press to disavow Boehner's formulation. "Do you want to let a statement like this stand from a Republican leader of Congress?" NBC's David Gregory finally asked.
"I'll get back to you on it," he said.
The exasperated Gregory tried another tack: "Can you describe how it's possible to oppose the president on the war on Iraq without emboldening the terrorists?"
"Yes, absolutely," Snow said. But not if it means pulling out of Iraq. "That," the spokesman said, "would embolden the terrorists."