The Conscience of a Bushie

The NYT's debriefing  - degriefing? - of Matthew Dowd strikes a chord with me, as you might imagine. Many of us backed Bush in 2000 with the thought that we were supporting a moderate, inclusive Republican with a pragmatic small-c conservative domestic policy, and a humble approach to the rest of the world. We were wrong, but we bonded with the president we'd picked through the trauma of 9/11, and it took many of us time to come to terms with what it was we had ultimately enabled. It was in front of our noses, of course. But what Dowd calls a "love-affair" is sometimes hard to walk away from cleanly or even recognize as a nightmare before it is too late. I worried about spending rather quickly, but the war soon took precedence over everything else. For me, the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the complete lack of planning, and the refusal to budge was the clincher. But Abu Ghraib - and the non-response to Abu Ghraib - made me realize that Bush was a danger to America, not an asset. The Federal Marriage Amendment obviously hit me in the solar plexus as well. It felt like a gratuitously vicious attack on a minority and a violation of conservatism. I knew my relationship with this president was over by the beginning of 2004. Some of us were mocked for backing John Kerry that year, and I can understand the mockery. Kerry? But yes, Bush really was that bad, that incompetent and that dangerous.

Dowd, it seems, took longer to recognize this. So have others. But what strikes me about the more thoughtful Bush alums - Matthew Dowd and David Kuo spring to mind - is their yearning for spiritual atonement. I think that for many the reckoning with these past few years may take longer to arrive. But there will be a wider reckoning. And it won't be pretty.