Bill Kristol provides a curtain-raiser for a Cheney speech next week that promises to entrench the notion that the Republican party is the Torture Party.
As always, Kristol's sole principle seems to be the wielding of power. He, like Cheney, is beginning to understand that history is beginning to gel around the assumption that the Bush-Cheney administration presided over the worst attack on US soil in history and failed to capture or bring to justice any of its perpetrators, put the next generation into unparalleled and unsustainable debt, did nothing to combat climate change, viciously opposed the civil rights movement of its time, shrunk the GOP to one in five voters, precipitated the worst recession since the 1930s, took the US into two grueling, unwinnable wars, humiliated the US at the UN with fatally flawed intelligence for war in Iraq, and destroyed the credibility and endurance of the Geneva Conventions, thus ensuring that future captured Americans will be tortured with no recourse.
What to do about this? Do a self-accounting? Figure out how these appalling errors were made? Apologize? Nah:
An intelligent and knowledgeable advocate--even if he's personally not so popular--can do a lot to get an issue front and center. And the debate of that issue can do political damage to the existing administration and its congressional allies. The real question any Republican strategist should ask himself is this: What will Republican chances be in 2012 if voters don't remember the Bush administration--however problematic in other areas--as successful in defending the country after 9/11? To give this issue away would be to accept a post-Herbert-Hoover-like-fate for today's GOP. That's why Republicans should listen carefully when Cheney gives a speech this week in which he'll lay out the case for the surveillance, detention, and interrogation policies of the Bush administration in the war against terror.
If Kristol and Cheney believe that conservatism should become the political philosophy that gives the executive branch absolute power to tap any phone without a warrant, seize anyone in the US or world, deny them any due process and torture them for "intelligence", then they are welcome to do so. But at some point, surely, decent conservatives who believe that the West's defense does not need a police state and a torture regime will fight back. At some point, surely, some conservatives will advocate a sane intelligence-gathering policy and an adult understanding that total security is impossible in a free and interconnected world - and that only unscrupulous, cynics pretend otherwise for the goal of manipulating public fears for political advantage.
Or are they all still as bullied by Rove and Cheney and Kristol as they were for the eight years these goons ran their party and their country into the ground?