Well, at least one American Conservative seems to have come around and finally “gets it.” Perhaps there is hope for the human race, or, at least, western civilized society after all.
I supported the President when he sent our troops into Afghanistan, after all, that’s where the Taliban was, that’s where al-Qaida trained the killers, that’s where Bin Laden was.
And I cheered when we quickly toppled the Taliban government, but winced when we let Bin Laden escape from Tora-Bora.
Then, the talk turned to Iraq and I winced again.
I thought the connection to 9-11 was sketchy at best. But Colin Powell impressed me at the UN, and Tony Blair was in, and after all, he was a Clinton guy, not a Bush guy, so I thought the case had to be strong. I was worried though, because I had read the Wolfowitz paper, The Project for the New American Century. Its been around since 92, and it raised alarm bells because it was based on a theory, Democratizing the Middle East and I prefer pragmatism over theory. I was worried because Iraq was being justified on a radical new basis, pre-emptive war. Any time we do something without historical precedent I get nervous.
But the President shifted the argument to WMDs and the urgent threat of Iraq getting atomic weapons. The debate turned to Saddam passing nukes on to terror groups. After 9-11, the risk was too great. As the President said, The next smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud. At least that’s what I thought at the time.
I grew up in New York and watched them build the World Trade Center. I worked with a guy, Frank O’Brian, who put the elevators in both towers. I lost a very close friend on September 11th. 103 floor, tower one, Cantor Fitzgerald. Tim Coughlin was his name. If we had to take out Iraq to make sure something like that, or worse, never happened again, so be it. I knew the consequences. We have a soldier in our house. None of this was theoretical in my house.
But in the months and years since shock and awe I have been shocked repeatedly by a consistent litany of excuses, alibis, double-talk, inaccuracies, bogus predictions, and flat out lies. I have watched as the President and his administration changed the goals, redefined the reasons for going into Iraq, and fumbled the good will of the world and the focus necessary to catch the real killers of September 11th.
I have watched the President say the commanders on the ground will make the battlefield decisions, and the war wont be run from Washington. Yet, politics has consistently determined what the troops can and cant do on the ground and any commander who did not go along with the administration was sacked, and in some cases, maligned.
I watched and tried to justify the looting in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. I watched and tried to justify the dismantling of the entire Iraqi army. I tired to explain the complexities of building a functional new Iraqi army. I urged patience when no WMDs were found. Then the Vice President told us we were in the waning days of the insurgency. And I started wincing again. The President says we have to stay the course but what if its the wrong course?
It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. Were about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. Its unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did.
Most historians believe it takes 30-50 years before we get a reasonably accurate take on a Presidents place in history. So, maybe 50 years from now Iraq will be a peaceful member of the brotherhood of nations and George W. Bush will be celebrated as a visionary genius.
But we don’t live fifty years in the future. We live now. We have to make public policy decisions now. We have to live with the consequences of the votes we cast and the leaders we chose now.
After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I’ve reached the conclusion hes either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both.
Presidential failures. James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, Warren Harding — the competition is fierce for the worst of the worst. Still, the damage this President has done is enormous. It will take decades to undo, and thats assuming we do everything right from now on. His mistakes have global implications, while the other failed Presidents mostly authored domestic embarrassments.
And speaking of domestic embarrassments, lets talk for a minute about President Bush’s domestic record. Yes, he cut taxes. But tax cuts combined with reckless spending and borrowing is criminal mismanagement of the public’s money. We’re drunk at the mall with our great grand-children’s credit cards. Whatever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?
Bush created a giant new entitlement, the prescription drug plan. He lied to his own party to get it passed. He lied to the country about its true cost. It was written by and for the pharmaceutical industry. It helps nobody except the multinationals that lobbied for it. So much for smaller government. In fact, virtually every tentacle of government has grown exponentially under Bush. Unless, of course, it was an agency to look after the public interest, or environmental protection, and/or workers rights.
I’ve talked so often about the border issue, I wont bore you with a rehash. Its enough to say this President has been a catastrophe for the wages of working people; hes debased the work ethic itself. Jobs Americans wont do! He doesn’t believe in the sovereign borders of the country he’s sworn to protect and defend. And his devotion to cheap labor for his corporate benefactors, along with his worship of multinational trade deals, makes an utter mockery of homeland security in a post 9-11 world. The President’s January 7th, 2004 speech on immigration, his first trial balloon on his guest worker scheme, was a deal breaker for me. I couldn’t and didn’t vote for him in 2004. And I’m glad I didn’t.
Katrina, Harriet Myers, The Dubai Port Deal, skyrocketing gas prices, shrinking wages for working people, staggering debt, astronomical foreign debt, outsourcing, open borders, contempt for the opinion of the American people, the war on science, media manipulation, faith based initiatives, a cavalier attitude toward fundamental freedoms– this President has run the most arrogant and out-of-touch administration in my lifetime, perhaps, in any Americans lifetime.
You can make a case that Abraham Lincoln did what he had to do, the public be damned. If you roll the dice on your gut and you’re right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the White Sox, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.
None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an endorsement of the opposition party. The Democrats are equally bankrupt. This is the second crime of our age. Again, historically speaking, its times like these when America needs a vibrant opposition to check the power of a run-amuck majority party. It requires it. It doesn’t work without one. Like the high and low tides keep the oceans alive, a healthy, positive opposition offers a path back to the center where all healthy societies live.
Tragically, the Democrats have allowed crackpots, leftists and demagogic cowards to snipe from the sidelines while taking no responsibility for anything. In fairness, I don’t believe a Democrat president would have gone into Iraq. Unfortunately, I don’t know if President Gore would have gone into Afghanistan. And thats one of the many problems with the Democrats.
The two party system has always been clumsy and imperfect, but it has only collapsed once, in the 1850s, and the result was civil war.
I believe, as I have said countless times, the two party system is on the brink of a second collapse. Its currently running on spin, anger, revenge, and pots and pots and pots of money.
Were being governed by paper-mache patriots; brightly painted red, white and blue, but hollow to the core. Both parties have mastered the cynical arts of media manipulation and fund raising. they’ve learned the lessons of Watergate and burn the tapes. They have learned to divide the nation for their own gain. They have demonstrated the willingness to exploit any tragedy for personal advantage. The contempt they have for the American people is without parallel.
This is painful to say, and I’m sure for many of you, painful to read. But its impossible to heal the country until were willing to acknowledge the truth no matter how painful. We have to wean ourselves off sugar coated partisan lies.
With a belated tip of the cap to Ralph Nader, the system is broken, so broken, its almost inevitable it pukes up the Al Gores and George W. Bushes. Where are the Trumans and the Eisenhowers? Where are the men and women of vision and accomplishment? Why do we have to settle for recycled hacks and malleable ciphers? Greatness is always rare, but is basic competence and simple honesty too much to ask?
It may be decades before we have the full picture of how paranoid and contemptuous this administration has been. And I am open to the possibility that I’m all wet about everything I’ve just said. But I’m putting it out there, because I have to call it as I see it, and this is how I see it today. I don’t say any of this lightly. I’ve thought about this for months and months. But eventually, the weight of evidence takes on a gravitational force of its own.
I believe that George W. Bush has taken us down a terrible road. I don’t believe the Democrats are offering an alternative. That means were on our own to save this magnificent country. The United States of America is a gift to the world, but it has been badly abused and its rightful owners, We the People, had better step up to the plate and reclaim it before the damage becomes irreparable.
So, accept my apology for allowing partisanship to blind me to an obvious truth; our President is incapable of the tasks he is charged with. I almost feel sorry for him. He is clearly in over his head. Yet, he doesn’t generate the sympathy Warren Harding earned. Harding, a spectacular mediocrity, had the self-knowledge to tell any and all he shouldn’t be President. George W. Bush continues to act the part, but at this point whose buying the act?
Does this make me a waffler? A flip-flopper? Maybe, although I prefer to call it realism. And, for those of you who never supported Bush, its also fair to accuse me of kicking Bush while hes down. After all, you were kicking him while he was up.
You were right, I was wrong.