The Bush Revolution
At certain moments, you realize with stunning clarity how empty and absurd our political clichés really are. Democracies dont start wars, Condoleezza Rice repeated the other day. What can that possibly mean in the real world?
Taken literally, this simple formula implies that any time a democracy is at war with a nondemocracy, the nondemocracy must have been the aggressor. Since the United States is a democracy, its unthinkable that it may be even partly to blame. Thus the Iraq war must have been Iraqs fault.
As you see, the logic tends to be rather, well, Soviet. You may recall that the Soviet Union was never the aggressive party in any conflict. It was always defending itself against capitalists, reactionaries, and fascists, just as the United States is now defending itself (and world freedom, democracy, et cetera) against Islamofascists. Whenever the Soviets invaded a country, they said they were liberating it, the very verb the United States now adopts to describe its military mischief abroad.
By the same token, the state of Israel, another democracy, is always the victim in any conflict. Apologists like Abe Foxman, Alan Dershowitz, and Charles Krauthammer have made this point so often that you may wonder if the laws of probability have been suspended. One could believe that Israel is in the right more often than not, considering some of its enemies. But is it possible that the Israelis are never, ever even partially at fault, just a wee little bit?
Another beloved old saying may have expired at last. Though I grew up with it and used to believe it, I havent heard it lately. It ran like this: In times of crisis, America produces great leaders. The revised version may take a different form: In times of Bush, America produces great crises.
Shortly after September 2001, many Americans took President Bush for the Anointed One, the heroic, eloquent man of destiny who brought moral clarity to an unprecedented national challenge by the forces of darkness. Even the Democrats rallied behind him, none more avidly than Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. To oppose Bushs war on terrorism was to risk charges of disloyalty. Old Europe had its doubts, but it was irrelevant, even contemptible, and could be ignored.
Five years later, Bushs name draws surefire guffaws when Leno and Letterman merely mention it; not since Monica Lewinsky have their gag-writers had it so easy. Lieberman is fighting for his political life, may well lose even his partys nomination for his Senate seat this year, and has been reduced to asking Bill Clinton, whom he famously rebuked for immorality, to campaign for him.
Fortunes wheel has made one of its notorious revolutions. The Republicans, forgetting Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, were planning on consolidating their rule for the foreseeable future behind their invincible war president. Karl Rove was a strategic genius. Even this year, Rove had decided to stake the Republicans election hopes on the Iraq war; the idea was to accuse the cut-and-run Democrats of weakness against Americas enemies.
Today Bush has become a synonym for arrogance and ineptitude. He is losing even his conservative base. Interviewed by CBS, William F. Buckley the countrys senior conservative, bosom friend and intellectual patron of Ronald Reagan has declared that Bush is no conservative and observed that if he were a European prime minister his failed war would have forced him to resign from office. George Will has been equally scathing.
Liberals have loathed Bush since his dubious electoral victory in 2000, but now he is equally despised by their adversaries. He has achieved a remarkable consensus: Nearly everyone who adheres to any political principle, left or right, agrees that he is a dreadful failure, indeed a disaster. And we are doomed to more than two more years of his rule, not to mention generations of aftermath.
Nothing has made America more hated around the world than Bushs global democratic revolution, whose chief fruit has been more of the grisly terrorism that democracy was supposed to vanquish. Even worse than the harm he has already done is the future he has sentenced us to endless war, crushing debt, and other irritations.
Lets hope our great nations comedians will still be able to see the funny side of it.
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