After reading today that many Democrats are criticizing President George W. Bush’s (R) for supposedly linking the Iraq War to the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in his speech last night, I have to face a bothersome realization: Democrats either weren’t listening, or they think everybody in the U.S. is really stupid.

There were plenty of things that the president said last night which are subject to fair debate, but the Democrats have decided (again!) to latch on to this mindless old criticism. And this time they’re criticizing Bush for something that he never even said!

Bush did mention 9/11, but only in two main contexts. First, the 9/11 attacks showed our nation that we needed to proactively address evil in the world (debatable, yes, but hardly “linking al Qaeda to Saddam”). Second, he said that many of the insurgents streaming into Iraq from neighboring countries are al Qaeda sympathizers and members (undeniably true, and also hardly “linking al Qaeda to Saddam”—the insurgency started after Saddam was deposed!).

The attacks on 9/11/2001 had an effect on this country and I’m tired of the Democratic Party pretending that they didn’t. For better or worse, what happened on that day changed our values and shifted our policies and adjusted our priorities on individual, national, and international scales—and it did the same for the terrorists. To pretend it occurred in a vacuum and has had no such wide-reaching effect and should never be talked about in the same sentence as anything else is to discount the reality of the event.

The lack of political connection between Saddam’s old regime and bin Laden does not change the fact that al Qaeda elements are in Iraq today, nor does it change the fact that our presence in Iraq is a result of a new world-view brought about by the 9/11 attacks. That’s all the president said and, more importantly, it’s the truth.

Strategy memo to the Democratic Party: There are about a million real issues to debate and address in our political landscape. Pick your favorite 10 and talk about those. Continually yelling, “Bush is bad, he said 9/11″ and “Bush is bad, Patriot Act!” and “Bush is bad, Iraq war” over and over and over is not a party platform, nor does it endear you to the American people. Your oft-baseless Bush-bashing cost you the presidential election (against a relatively unpopular president), cost you seats in both houses of Congress, cost you Governor’s mansions, and just generally cost you respect. Maybe it’s time to try something with a little more substance.