Friday, June 1, 2007

Strong backs and epiphanies

It's interesting to read the steadily growing numbers of conservative cognoscenti coming forward to tell the tales of when they officially could no longer support the Bush administration. The excerpt below is taken from a letter that Andrew Sullivan posts from one of his readers.
Peggy Noonan is the latest luminary to come clean on her transfiguration. What is still interesting to me is where are all the other voices from the original conservative ascendancy of the 1980s and what have they got to say now?

I was thinking about former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. I remember many years ago reading her article in Commentary called, "Dictatorships and Double Standards" wherein she rips apart Jimmy Carter's decision to back off support for the Shah of Iran and Anastazio Somoza in Nicaragua in protest of widespread state-sponsored human rights abuses in those countries. She argued that authoritarian regimes can evolve into democracies, but that totalitarian regimes cannot, and that Mr. Carter was incredibly naïve to isolate Somoza and the Shah, because those oppressive dictatorships were replaced by totalitarians, such as the Ayatollah in Iran and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

This seminal piece was supposedly what introduced Ronald Reagan to Dr. Kirkpatrick, and brought her into the conservative fold. In fairness, she postulated this theory before the collapse of the Soviet Union or the election in "totalitarian" Nicaragua which peacefully ousted the Sandinistas via democratic elections.

Still, could she have totally abandoned the her core premise that the U.S. should not actively engage repressive dictators in places that were not in the "vital" interests of the United States? If so, where was she during the debate on invading Iraq? I'm still waiting to hear where the American Margaret Thatcher and others stand on the current direction of U.S. foreign policy.

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:

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.

I'll have some of whatever they're smoking.

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