Republicans typically reply that Democrats were no softies when it came to George W. Bush. There’s truth to that, particularly in the final years of his tenure. What they ignore is that Democrats entirely shelved partisanship after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There was little opposition to Bush’s decision to send troops to Afghanistan and less questioning in advance of the Iraq war than there should have been.
Moreover, Republicans were utterly unrestrained in casting opposition to Bush’s policies as disloyalty to the nation. When Nancy Pelosi accused Bush in 2004 of being “incompetent,” Tom DeLay, then the House majority leader, denounced the top House Democrat for being “so caught up in the partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk.”
In late September 2004, during the presidential campaign, Bush said that his opponent John Kerry’s statements on Iraq “can embolden an enemy,” while Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) predicted that terrorists “are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry.”
Washington usually responds blandly by saying that “both parties do it.” But note the consistent thread through the GOP attacks: that Democrats — then Kerry, now Obama — are weak and vacillating and give comfort to our foes.