A reader writes:
I went back today to find a quote of yours:
"When you take a few steps back and look closely, you realize that Bush has managed both to betray conservatism and stigmatize it all at once. That's some achievement."
I have been struggling to identify what has disappointed me so much about GWB since the heady days of the Afghanistan war in the aftermath of 9-11. The betrayal and stigmatizing of conservatism is exactly it!
In 2000 my mostly liberal friends were so furious at the election results that I jumped to defend Bush and Republicans from the crazy onslaught. I overlooked the education program and soft-peddling of the immigration issue because I believed in the tax cuts and a more America-first foreign policy.
Then 9-11 ... as the liberal demagogues called him a coward for avoiding DC and accused his administration of neglecting the threat, I fought back with pointing the finger at Clinton who shouldered more of the blame (a view history seems to share with the information uncovered by the 9-11 commission and less partisan authors). When he stood on the rubble and declared the empire would strike back, followed by the amazement of the world at the shock and awe victory over the Taliban, I was proud he was our president.
The war successes and the security issue made me forget government spending and federalism. Silly me put my trust in the inept Hastert-DeLay-Frist majority. I truly believed GWB that we had to "prevent the most dangerous regimes from getting hold of the most destructive weapons." I cheered on against the axis of evil. In 2003 the quick toppling of Saddam Hussein made Rumsfeld and Franks heroes of mine a rung below the brilliant president. I enjoyed teasing my liberal friends over the trouncing of John Kerry in 2004.
Then came the lack of WMD, our entire reasoning for war.
And GWB wasn't angry, he just shrugged it off and gave George Tenet a medal! I was so dismissive of the media play up of the initial abuse reports (like underwear on the head), that I didn't appreciate the gravity of Abu Ghraib, renditions, and torture. The Jose Padilla odyssey makes me want to vomit.
Now what to do we have? Runaway spending and federalism turned on its head with all the states and local governments putting their greedy hands out for homeland security money. A war that has gone on longer than WWII with little to show for it but an exhausted military and unintended geopolitical ramifications.
GWB will leave in 18 months and it looks like we will still have a nuke and missile-armed North Korea, a soon to be nuclear Iran, an unsealed border 6 years after 9-11, people still in Gitmo that can't possibly have any more national security value ... should I go on? I can't name one impressive thing that Condoleezza Rice has done since becoming Secretary of State, and that hurts because I found her so impressive. She has done little to help Israeli/Palestinian peace, move China/Taiwan beyond the increasingly unstable status quo, or figure out exactly what to do with Pakistan. When I think of James Baker and the deft management of the liberation of Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union, there just isn't any comparison.
I know I'm off message here, but if GWB could run for a 3rd term I would have very little principles to defend him on against my liberal friends. I can take heart that they probably wouldn't be won over by conservatism anyway. But where do I go?
Right now as a former Republican turned Libertarian (but who hardly supports all of their positions) I am seriously considering registering Democrat just to vote for Obama in the early Florida primary. I may not agree with his positions on the role of government, but he is a smart man who would not betray national security. And he could become the "healer-in-chief"--a liberal Reagan as you say, that Clinton and Bush were impossible to be.
It is too early for me to say definitely that I will vote for Obama in the general election. But if he is the nominee the Republican is going to have to explain to me where Bush and the Republican Congress failed and what he is going to do about it.