William Kristol, the neocon’s poster boy, pens an op-ed in the Washington Post that states — apparently in all seriousness — that history will vindicate George W. Bush as a successful president. That is, if we win the war in Iraq and the Republicans win the election in 2008. Oh, and if pigs could fly you’d get your breakfast for free.
I suppose I’ll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush’s presidency will probably be a successful one.
Let’s step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration. Let’s look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see? First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil — not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a strong economy — also something that wasn’t inevitable.
And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult, but where — despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless “benchmark” report last week — we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome.
First, the reason is that there has been “no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil” is probably because Osama bin Laden and his gang figured out very quickly that they don’t need to attack us again; the reaction by the Bush administration with such things as the PATRIOT Act, the warrantless wiretapping, the constant ratcheting up of the “terror alerts” whenever there’s some nut with a paintball gun and a copy of the Koran, and all the exploitation of the mob mentality that goes with it has accomplished the mission that Al-Qaeda set forth: disrupt the Western way of life and get us to pay attention to them. All they have to do is release a scratchy video tape every six months of Osama bin Laden mumbling and ranting and they’re all over the front pages. It’s like playing with a cat with a laser pointer; they know the reaction and it’s endless fun for them. They didn’t have to waste their money and hit us again: they got what they wanted the first time.
As for the economy, only someone like William Kristol, who never has to worry about where his next meal is coming from or how he’ll pay for his health insurance all the while he’s waiting for his next tax cut, could say that the economy is doing better. Sure; things are great as long as you don’t max out the credit card. But when the bill comes due, who’s going to pay for it? The GOP used to be the party of sound fiscal management and pay-as-you-go. Now they are spending money like a repressed family values right-wing politician on a bender in a brothel in New Orleans. Never mind that the income gap between the richest and the average working class family has never been wider. Never mind that all those tax cuts touted by the president and Mr. Kristol didn’t trickle down any further than the Hummer dealership and the gatehouse at Garish Acres. Never mind that our health care system ranks right up there with Slovenia and the drug companies have a net income on the same level as some NATO countries. And never mind that the cost of gasoline has nearly doubled since the Bush administration took office. Yes, a trickle-down economy works great, Mr. Kristol, as long as you’re the one doing the pissing.
As for Iraq and “being on the course to a successful outcome,” that’s a hard line to sell after we’ve seen the largest number of dead Americans coming out of there in the last two months than all the months before. That’s a hard sell when car bombs and insurgent attacks are on the rise, and it’s an even harder sell when the Iraqi government itself doesn’t even give enough of a shit to put an end to the sectarian violence that they have no qualms about taking off on vacation for the entire month of August and basically saying to the United States, “hey, take care of the place while we’re gone.”
Mr. Kristol’s rationalization for invading Iraq is that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and things would be worse over there if we’d let him stay in power. He’s basing that on the premise that “with the United States (and the United Nations) by now having backed off sanctions and the no-fly zone. He might well have restarted his nuclear program, and his connections with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would be intact or revived and even strengthened.”
Okay, let me say this slowly so even those of you in the back of the room can understand it: There was no connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Even President Bush admitted as such (although Dick Cheney wasn’t in the room when he said it). Saddam Hussein was a secularist and al-Qaeda is fundamentalist. Short version: they hated and distrusted each other. That they both happened to be Muslims doesn’t automatically make them allies any more than the fact that both Bill Clinton and Fred Phelps happen to say that they are Christians makes them allies in their causes. There was no viable al-Qaeda presence in Iraq until we invaded the country and provided them with powerful incentive to be there: American soldiers on the street ripe for attack, no Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard to wipe them out, and a seething mass of angry and volatile unemployed Muslims who have never trusted the West to keep out of their affairs. Al-Qaeda sprang up in Iraq like mushrooms on the lawn. Second, there is no indication that the United States and the UN would have backed off the sanctions and the no-fly zones; they were working…at least as well as they were when the first President Bush put them in place. Third, Saddam Hussein had no nuclear program to speak of, so how could he restart it? (Or wasn’t Mr. Kristol paying attention to all the stories that eventually got Scooter Libby so much press?)
The rationale for invading Iraq — fighting the war on terror — is like President Roosevelt ordering the invasion of Italy after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Yes, Iraq was a repressive dictatorship in the Middle East. Fact: it would be an event if there wasn’t a repressive dictatorship in the Middle East. Second, there were a lot more countries with a lot more loony dictators than Saddam Hussein at the time, including North Korea and the Sudan, and they posed as much a threat — if not more — against ourselves and the rest of civilization than that preening dictator in Iraq.
Finally, Mr. Kristol pulls out the scariest threat of all: if Bush is a failure, the Democrats will win.
Even at Bush’s current low point in popularity, the leading GOP presidential candidates are competitive in the polls with Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Furthermore, one great advantage of the current partisan squabbling in Washington is that while it hurts Bush, it also damages the popularity of the Democratic Congress– where both Clinton and Obama serve. A little mutual assured destruction between the Bush administration and Congress could leave the Republican nominee, who will most likely have no affiliation with either, in decent shape.
And what happens when voters realize in November 2008 that, if they choose a Democrat for president, they’ll also get a Democratic Congress and therefore liberal Supreme Court justices? Many Americans will recoil from the prospect of being governed by an unchecked triumvirate of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. So the chances of a Republican winning the presidency in 2008 aren’t bad.
Nice try. We’ve already had a test run of that theory. It was the election of 2006, and the voters gave the GOP, to coin a phrase, “a thumpin’.” The Democrats have stumbled occasionally and the Republicans have pulled out their once-reviled tactic of the filibuster, but to say that the current crop of GOP candidates is “competitive” is like saying that being behind even Hillary Clinton by ten points is within the margin of error. And name me one Republican candidate who is going to stand on the podium at the Republican National Convention next summer in Minneapolis and invite the current president to stand with him as he accepts the nomination. Even the most optimistic yet straight-thinking GOP supporter knows that the Republican candidate, whichever white guy it is, is in for a beating on the level of 1964.
Which brings me to this observation: since when did the Republicans lower their standards to such a point that the performance of George W. Bush as President of the United States could be measured on any scale as being successful? Name me one decision that they’ve made in fighting the war on terror that they’ve gotten right, from leaving Afghanistan at halftime to invade Iraq to shredding the Constitution to find Osama under their bed in Miami. Name me one program, including everything from No Child Left Behind to their so-called faith-based initiatives, to scientific research, to health care reform, that hasn’t been so riddled with politics and lack of leadership that they have risen above the level of being a pay-out to their political hacks and cronies and actually done some good. Name me one appointment to the bench that hasn’t sought to return the laws and standards back to the 1950’s or beyond and re-energized the discarded theory that equal rights under the law only applies to those who are well-connected, the right color, and straight. If this is how the Republicans now judge “success,” perhaps it’s a good thing that the Bush administration has been a complete fuck-up; can you imagine how bad it would be if they actually did what they wanted to do right?
The righties are fond of accusing the left of having what they call “Bush Derangement Syndrome;” that the very mention of Bush sends the left off into a frothing frenzy of hatred. Actually, it seems to be working the other way. In the eyes of the right, George W. Bush can do no wrong, even when he brings the country to the brink of disaster at home and abroad. It’s like a cult of personality, and William Kristol has been one of the leading preachers of it. So it’s not surprising at all that he comes up with this magical mystery tour of why Bush will be a winner. I only hope that when he finally realizes how completely deranged he’s been, he’ll have the courage and the eloquence to say how amazingly wrong he was.
Hey, look! Free breakfast!
Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.