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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Dares can get president and nation into trouble

President Bush should have learned better than to dare the nation's enemies, military or political, to do something.

On July 2, 2003, Mr. Bush said this about Iraq: "There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."

More than 1,500 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since he said that. Of course, nobody thinks he intended to provoke attacks on U.S. troops. But his defiant words may have motivated insurgents.

Thursday, Mr. Bush criticized Iran's upcoming elections.

"Iran is ruled by men who suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world," he said. "Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy. The June 17th presidential elections are sadly consistent with this oppressive record."

Everything he said is probably right, but his timing was off. The next day, Iranians voted in unexpectedly high numbers (63 percent), and — another surprise — they put a hardliner in a runoff for the presidency.

The Iranian intelligence minister commented sarcastically: "I say to Bush: 'Thank you.' He motivated people to vote in retaliation." Said a political science professor at Kuwait University: "Unknowingly, (Bush) pushed Iranians to vote so that they can prove their loyalty to the regime — even if they are in disagreement with it." And an Egyptian political analyst said: "Bush meant to discourage the hard-liners, but instead he motivated their supporters."

Mr. Bush has a little political experience in Alabama, having worked in a U.S. Senate campaign here in 1972. He could have learned something back then from the late George Wallace, who loudly defended Alabamians' honor. Mr. Wallace used to assure us that we were as refined and cultured and intelligent as anybody. People voted for him to prove the state's critics wrong.

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