Sullivan's reader argues that for many conservatives, it became a question of when the straw was lain that broke the proverbial camel's back. It's an interesting assessment, and I can only wonder how it is that so many of these people have such strong backs. Even if I had been a true believer, which thankfully I never was, my back would have been broken in, oh, I'd say early 2002:
I'll have some of whatever they're smoking.
The reader you posted stated that Noonan and others who are late to the party have no credibility to criticize Bush. Hogwash. Have you and this reader never heard of the expression "the straw that breaks the camel's back?" You maintain loyalty in politics even when you are in disagreement with a party or a President. If you are part of a political movement you realize that no politician is ideologically pure or completely without fault. However, you do expect that your loyalty will be rewarded with more than mere lip service to one's ideological beliefs and you expect more than comically bad incompetence.
A lot of intellectual conservatives are now asking themselves at which moment did they lose faith in Bush. For some, such as yourself, it was Abu Ghraib. For others, it was the chaos that unfolded in late 2003-04 and the intransigent refusal of Rumsfeld and Bush to respond to it.
For another group, it was the President's use of warrantless wiretaps and vast expansions of federal power. For many it was the realization that two of the three biggest domestic accomplishments for Bush (outside of the tax cuts) were Ted Kennedy sponsored pieces of legislation. For a huge number it was the culture of profligate spending.
For myself, the seminal moment at which I lost real faith in this President was in the aftermath of Katrina. He could no longer profess to hold the mantle of competence and indeed, he was the poster child of cronyism and ineffectiveness. He proved himself to be dilatory and disinterested, all in the face of the worst natural disaster in this country's history. Granted the local politicians screwed up royally (and are still doing so in NOLA), but he is the POTUS and is expected, at the least to focus our efforts to recover, and to lead. He held that mantle after 9/11, he pissed it down the drain after Katrina.
The last straws for conservatives are the White House's arrogant refusal to contenance any criticism of what it is doing in Iraq coupled with its arrogant and condescending ramroding of a disastrous immigration boondoggle, all the while telling the people "who have carried his water for years" that they are a bunch of bigots and ignoramuses.
Don't forget Andrew that the scales had to fall from your eyes as well. It has come at different times and in different ways for all of us, but it does not make Noonan's critique of Bush any less credible that it has come later than your own. It just means that you were more foresighted than she was.