Bush: Visionary or Impostor?(Reprinted from the issue of March 2, 2006)
Back when George Herbert Walker Bush was president, his political clumsiness led me to remark on his propensity for errors beyond the merely ordinary mistakes we all make. I said he made heat-seeking blunders.
Little did I dream that his son who was then a cloud no bigger than a mans hand would one day surpass him. President George W. Bush is the master of the real doozy, the truly incredible gaffe, the goof that keeps on goofing, exploding like fireworks into thousands of little mini-goofs. The Iraq war comes to mind, and the Medicare prescription drug plan, both of which will plague generations to come.
Yet the younger Bush is not one to admit a mistake, however egregious. This is a man who doesnt know the meaning of the word Oops! Not only does he appear out of touch with reality; at times I wonder if he even has a firm grip on fantasy.
The latest spinoff of the Iraq war is a plan to let Arab companies control American seaports when the United States is facing fanatical hatred in the Arab world. Personally, I wouldnt worry about it, but I understand why it sounds like a dubious idea to many Americans and to Republicans facing elections this year.
I also understand why the Democrats are making the most of the furor. So Bush is now being bitten by the very war hysteria he himself has whipped up.
Nevertheless, President Bush is a stubborn man, and he isnt backing down. After five years of vetoing absolutely nothing, he is threatening to veto any act of Congress quashing the deal.
Two new books by conservatives bring the Bush problem into focus, if only by their diametrically opposed views of him. One is adoring; the other, damning.
The adoring one is Rebel-in-Chief, by Fred Barnes, neoconservative executive editor of The Weekly Standard, who basically takes the view, no longer widely shared, that Bush can do no wrong. The visionary president has succeeded in redefining the right with his philosophy of strong-government conservatism.
Bushs great achievements, according to Barnes, include these: He has thwarted terrorism, changed parts of the world forever, dominated Congress, curtailed federalism, won fundamental reforms, and treated critics as a nuisance all of it made possible by a strong national government.
A less enchanted view is offered by Bruce Bartlett in Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. By conservative standards of limited government, Bartlett argues, Bush falls short not only of Reagan, but even of Bill Clinton.
Naturally, the book has cost Bartlett his job. He has been fired by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank whose big donors resent his description of Bush as a pretend conservative. As Shakespeares Enobarbus says, That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.
Do It to Julia!
Winston Smith, the timid hero of George Orwells great dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, has a particular dread of rats. At the climax of the story, his fiendish tormentors, knowing this, bind him and set rats to gnaw his face. It works even better than expected.
Winstons character what little there is of it completely breaks down, and he screams, Do it to Julia! He is willing to betray his girlfriend to save himself. The book ends with the sentence: He loved Big Brother.
This love is all that is left of Winston. His cowardice has finally made him treacherous.
I thought of Winston and the rats when I heard that Austria had convicted the historian David Irving of Holocaust denial. In the end, Irving pleaded guilty and received a three-year sentence instead of the maximum ten. This was Austrias way of doing it to Julia. Liberals show their compassion by spending other peoples money; conservatives show their courage by sending other people to war; and now the Austrians have shown their remorse for Hitler by violating other peoples freedom of speech.
Walter Duranty and his newspaper, The New York Times, reported that there was no famine in Ukraine, but that was while that famine was still going on which made them, in a real sense, active accomplices in Stalins crimes; but Hitler and his henchmen are long gone, so even a defense of whatever they did, at this point, cant assist them.
Of course a conscious lie is always immoral, even if the crime is long past; but should it be punishable by imprisonment?
In any case, that is not what Irving did. I know him pretty well, have read several of his books, and have never heard or read any words of his that deny the Holocaust. Those who know him only by reputation would be surprised to learn that his many works about World War II deal with the subject only marginally, not obsessively. He is much more critical of Churchill than favorable to Hitler, and I gather he simply thinks Britain should have avoided a disastrous war with Germany.
If Irving has ever denied the Holocaust, I think his enemies owe it to us to produce evidence from his voluminous writings. All they have is a guilty plea he has just made under duress, when threatened with ten years in prison at the age of 67! What kind of proof is that?
And exactly what is he supposed to have done? He was convicted for a speech he gave in Austria 17 years earlier, in the previous century. No violence or other palpable harm resulted from it. Even the prosecution didnt accuse him of urging his auditors to commit crimes, or to do anything to anyone. Any crime on his part was purely abstract, hard to specify.
On his first day in prison, as he told a friend of his and mine, the murderers and rapists amongst whom he was confined were amazed to hear that hed been convicted for expressing an opinion back in 1989.
As Irving pointed out in court, he has never denied that the Nazis killed millions of people. But Austria, long stigmatized for supporting Hitler, has now convicted an Englishman on the bizarre charge of supporting Hitler posthumously! How virtuous. Do it to Julia!
Orwell would love this. The Austrians have gotten the Hitler monkey off their back by putting it on Irvings.
The tireless ideologues of Holocaust-guilt, let us remember, have also convicted the saintly Pius XII, Hitlers Pope, of implicitly condoning race-murder. Any number can play this game.
Eventually, if you accuse enough people, you wind up effectively exculpating the truly guilty. Sometimes the buck can be passed a little too far.
Something to bear in mind in the age of the War on Terror, Homeland Security, and all that.
I wouldnt mind a cowboy president if he were like, say, Gary Cooper in High Noon. But why did we have to get Yosemite Sam? SOBRANS. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.
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|Copyright © 2006 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission
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