James Poulos argues that a leading Republican candidate needs to run aggressively, proudly and angrily against president Bush and his legacy. Money quote:
The American people are ready for prominent Republicans to cop to the truth. Dick Lugar will not be thrown out of office anytime soon. He knows what plenty of us already know: when September comes, and we make public the judgments that Condi Rice has plead with us to pickle until then, the verdict on the surge will be in and will change nothing. Our armed forces are competent and diligent enough to do even better at waging war when their numbers are swelled. But observers from the White House on down have admitted time and again that 'success' in Iraq, as a matter of fact, cannot be achieved militarily. There is nothing that the US can do to change the political reality in Iraq. This is not a great failure of nerve or a failure of war. And when we cease to maintain the heady and wild expectations of March 2003, we will recover the sense necessary to remove the thorn of Iraq from the paw of the Republican party.
Such a move will not make an Iraq of the GOP. This is about more than neoconservatism versus paleoconservatism. Even a neocon can recognize a mess when he sees one. Even a paleocon can recognize there is more to choose from than either the isolation of America or the nuking of Iran. The hawk need not be reckless or bloodthirsty; the dove need not be a coward; and we need least of all the false dichotomy of polar caricatures. Prudence -- the careful calibration of policy to circumstance -- cannot take place caught between binary ideologies. Conservatives ought to know this by now, and ought to have remembered it, too. We still have time, but precious little.
The reality for the majority of conservative activists and voters: even the mildest dissent on the war is treachery. The candidates are prisoners to this.