OK. I admit it. I was wrong. You have endured my years of polemics on the benefits of the Bush administration, and now I realize that my usually keen sense of analysis missed some major failings of this presidency. Accept my heartfelt apologies and let me outline the specific items with which I take issue with the president’s administration.
1) The Libby Indictment. I am an attorney and I realize that this is the fatal blow to anything that the Bush administration wishes to accomplish over the next three years. This indictment is serious. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald is serious. The eventual trial—and there will be one-- is serious. Why didn’t Bush uncover this in 2004 and clean house? As Grodge has intimated, isn’t he, after all, the president? Unlike the Clinton investigation, this one surrounds substantive charges of disclosing a CIA agent’s identity, the intelligence about Iraq’a WMD capabilities and the politicization of the war effort. Also, unlike Clinton’s investigation, this special prosecutor is not some political hack who will fold his tent on January 20, 2007, the last day of Bush’s presidency, like Starr did to Clinton. Furthermore, the indictment casts a long shadow on Cheney, Rove, Bush, the Iraq war effort, the morale of our clandestine services, and our diplomatic standing in the world. Now, even Italy’s Berlusconi, one of the more hawkish members of the “coalition of the willing”, is saying that he, too, warned Bush about the possible lack of WMD in 2003. The rats are jumping ashore just at the time when the US needs the international community to help in the transitional government in Iraq. Long, dark shadow.
2) The Iraq war. In the past I saw the value of invading Iraq, securing a government friendly to the US, and extracting oil for our national self-interest. To me, that was the only rationale that our military should have been involved in Iraq; didn’t we all know the WMD crap was bogus from the start? So far, and as far as anyone can see, that scenario is not playing out. Whether Bush failed by obtaining a valid international mandate, or he failed by conducting the occupation inadequately, or he has just been unlucky, one thing is for sure: Bush failed. The US electorate has lost faith that the war effort has been worth it, gas prices are skyrocketing, our federal budget is shattered, and the polls are correct. Never did I ever consider in 2003 that 30 months down the road we would still be holed up in Baghdad’s Green Zone and Iraq’s oil fields would still be on fire. The project has been a disaster, and it’s far from over. I am not a Christian, Humanist, Hindu or Buddhist, but maybe there is some real-world validity to the non-violence ethos portrayed in those varied and revered religions—I’ll have to talk to my rabbi about it.
3) The Supreme Court. Harriet Miers? Yikes. I am more qualified than Miers to be on the SCOTUS, and believe me, I am not qualified. The proper analogy would be if Bush asked his friendly general practitioner from Crawford to—no, not serve as Surgeon General, that’s an easy job—replace somebody’s heart defibrillator, and then set the rules on how heart defibrillators should be monitored and maintained for every heart patient in the country. This choice for SCOTUS, more than anything Bush has done, has shown just how lost he is. I have never claimed that Bush is an intellectual giant or some insightful savant-- no, he has unquestionably benefited by his family’s name and wealth more than anybody who has ascended to the Oval office-- but I have always trusted the system enough to believe that he would be surrounded with competent advisors who would take over the daily housekeeping chores, one of which is vetting potential SCOTUS candidates and presenting the president with a short list of viable folks. In Bush’s case, a very short list. Perhaps the latest Libby/Rove imbroglio, or the Iraq chaos, or the Katrina/Rita/FEMA mess, or a combination of these, has shed a dreary light on the usually opaque governance of this administration; but one thing is for sure: somebody actually let Bush choose his own SCOTUS candidate, and that never should have happened. More importantly, what else are they letting George do? That’s really scary.
Obviously, there is no way to know what would have happened if Kerry had been elected one year ago. The Libby/Rove mess would have still occurred, but perhaps it would have been relegated to page 3 of the Washington Post, and not have screamed to the world what complete imbeciles we are. Search Google News for “Libby indictment” and see what the international press is saying. Worse than Watergate, in spades. Perhaps the Iraq war effort would be no better, but I cannot imagine that it would be any worse; who knows, perhaps Kerry would have been able to recruit the UN or NATO or Asian allies to help in the peacekeeping during the Iraqi elections. Gas prices would still be high, but the blame would be put on the proper culprits: Asian market demand for oil, the lack of alternate fuel sources and obscene oil company profits, instead of the world blaming the US military intervention in Iraq.
Personally, I have grown more pessimistic over the last nine months. Sure, I have no problem filling up my Lexus, and sure, my kids are too young to go off to war, but I worry about my kids’ ability to drive their Lexuses and live the grand lifestyle I am enjoying. Maybe it wasn’t so bad when all we had to worry about were personal indiscretions and trumped up land-deal charges. So, Grodge, accept my heartfelt apologies. While I have not become some bleeding heart liberal, I am beginning to see that you have been correct: the Bush administration has not been conservative, in the classic sense of conservatism. The “neo-conservative” militarism is expensive and ineffective. The federal budgets are filled with even more outrageous pork than ever. And diplomatic isolation is not only lonely, but costly.
Grodge, you know that I am arrogant enough to be very reticent to admit my mistakes, but I have given this issue much thought. I realize now that you have not changed: you are still the arch conservative that you were in college, the true compassionate conservative who saw the enlightened self-interest of a reformed welfare system, the cost-effectiveness of some form of health care for everyone and reluctance for a violent and expensive war. The USA is the greatest nation on earth for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that we can admit our mistakes and vow to avoid them in the future. As an American, I admit it. My votes for George W. Bush have been a mistake. I appeal to your compassion to not kick me when I’m down.
In conclusion, I'd like to thank Barry for his heartfelt mea culpa. Such an admission mirrors the recent polls which put Bush's approval rating at 38% while a year ago over 51% voted for him. Kerry may be a liberal, but as I've always maintained, modern liberalism is more conservative than fifty years ago, and certainly more conservative than the radical "neo-conservatism" of today.