Excerpt: 'My Turn at the Bully Pulpit'

We walked outside. My father and I stood there looking at the wreckage. He had his arm on my shoulder.

"Well," he said slowly, "it is sort of good this happened."

I thought, What, is he crazy? Both cars were wrecked and looked horrible!

He turned to me and continued: "You just got your license a month ago and you lost your temper. That could have been a child you hit, and it was just a car. Cars can be fixed. That's why we have insurance. Children can't be fixed. I know there will be times again in your life when you lose your temper, but you will never forget the sound of that crash, and because of that sound, you will never again lose your temper and then get behind the wheel of a car."

He was right. I'll never forget that sound. And I have gotten angry, but never behind the wheel. He taught me a huge lesson that day —and it wasn't a bad way to raise a kid.

Since September 11 we have seen a time of great patriotism in this country, which surely is a very good thing, and long overdue. I am making some assumptions about all of us as Americans, but here goes: We all support President Bush in the war on terror; we all pretty much think Saddam Hussein is a terrible guy who has been a brutal dictator to his people; and we all want to find Osama bin Laden and … well, I'll leave what we want to do to him to the imagination.

But there are legitimate disagreements about how to win the war on terror. Some reasonable people are concerned that we are paying too high a price, that we are giving up some of the precious liberties we have enjoyed since this nation was founded in exchange for investigating terrorists who live in our own land. We are facing some serious compromises.

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle was one of those who, in his role as leader of the opposition party, questioned the wisdom of some of President Bush's approaches to the war on terror and the success of the president's tactics. In November 2002 he had this to say: "We haven't found bin Laden. We haven't made any real progress in many of the other areas involving the key elements of al-Qaeda. They continue to be as great a threat today as they were a year and a half ago. So by what measure can we say this has been successful so far?"

He appeared on On the Record to reiterate his view: "I don't think anybody has a right to say we're winning the war on terrorism until we see more results."

Now, I don't care whether you agree or disagree with Tom Daschle — that's not the point. But in the first instance, all Daschle did was simply pose questions, propose a different view. Oh, sure, there was more than a touch of politics, but it was still an important question. Boom! Mark Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida, sent out a press release saying, "It appears his patriotism has gone away with his party's majority." Rush Limbaugh, on his radio program, began referring to Daschle as "Hanoi Tom." And letters soon began flooding Daschle's office addressed to "Tom 'Osama' Daschle." This was way over the edge — somewhat fueled by the fury that TV created.

The fact is, our leaders, whether they be Democrats or Republicans, have a duty to question the president, whether he be a Republican or a Democrat, without being called traitors!

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