January 15, 2004
Secretary of State Colin Powell now admits, or
acknowledges, or however you want to put it, that he hasnt seen a
smoking gun proving that Saddam Hussein had weapons of
mass destruction or terrorist connections, though he says it was
nonetheless prudent to suppose so at the
The Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace has concluded that the Bush administration
misrepresented the threat from Saddam Hussein.
Paul ONeill, President
Bushs former secretary of the Treasury, says Bush was determined
to depose Saddam Hussein as soon as he took office, long before the 9/11
attacks, and that he himself never saw anything that I would
characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction. His new
quasi memoir isnt flattering to Bushs judgment in general.
Before, during, and after the Iraq
war, Bush assured us that those weapons would soon be found. Nearly a
year after the war began, they havent been found.
Are you starting to see a
I never believed Bush, said so,
and all last year found myself accused of hating him and even of hating
America. I dont really find Bush hateful. I do get annoyed at being
ruled by him, but its not a matter of personal animosity; I merely
think we all ought to be outraged at being ruled by a series of mediocre
men who have far more power than any man should ever have. They usually
lie, too. It comes with the territory.
any honest man really want that kind of power over
millions of other people? Yes, it can happen, I suppose. I think Jimmy
Carter was a fairly honest man, as men go. But once he has that kind of
power, can he keep it if he stays honest? I doubt it.
Every president finds himself
hated with startling intensity. As a political ruler he commands a vast
system of coercion, which means he is bound to make countless enemies.
Nobody seems to realize that this is inevitable; but to many citizens the
incumbent president always appears as a monster, just because, in the
nature of things, he has more power than any man should be trusted with,
and far more than the U.S. Constitution authorizes.
When Bush was a private citizen,
nobody thought he was either unusually good or unusually wicked. Only
when he got into politics, as governor of Texas, did people start talking
about him very severely. And even when he ran for president, nobody made
extravagant claims for him.
His amazingly thin victory in the
2000 race made him seem diabolical to many Democrats, who accused him
of stealing the election. But before 9/11, nobody mistook him for a great
man. It was only when he suddenly became a war president
that many Americans, mostly Republicans, discovered that he stood in the
tradition of supposedly great leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston
Churchill. His speeches calling for war on terror against the
axis of evil were acclaimed for restoring moral
clarity to the presidency, in inspiring contrast to Bill Clinton and
even his own father. Never mind that those speeches were the work of,
well, his speechwriters.
In the eyes of the Democrats, all
this only made Bush more evil himself. Both parties still agree that the
U.S. Government and American power are excellent things, and that
everything depends on having a great man in the presidency, but they
differ sharply on whether Bush is that man. The Democrats are united in
the conviction that he isnt and that a Democrat must replace him
next year; they differ among themselves only on which of their current
candidates is electable. But as soon as one of them locks up
the nomination, they will all agree that he is the obviously Anointed One.
Even if that candidate is Howard
Dean, the Democrats will forget and forgive what they are now calling his
gaffes. Of course if he loses the November election in a
landslide, they will blame him for their partys defeat and for
ensuring Bushs second term.
Should such a landslide occur,
the Republicans will hail it as further proof of Bushs greatness. If
their dominance of Congress is increased, they will continue to blame
deficits, fiscal crises, high taxes, and difficulties in the occupation of
Iraq on the Democrats.
And anyone who keeps muttering
about the U.S. Constitution will still be dismissed as an unpatriotic