Over at National Review's
The Corner, Stanley Kurtz has responded
to a post of mine in which I critiqued an earlier post of his. I must say that on the second try Kurtz has managed to make an argument even weaker than the first.
On the first go at it, Kurtz argued that the problem for President Bush was that the American people simply aren't willing to pay the cost of Bush's war in blood, money and years. I called that blaming the American people for Bush's disaster.
With the second try, Kurtz carts out a new culprit: the Democrats. While acknowledging the administration's tactical missteps along the way, Kurtz now argues that the real villains in this whole sorry mess are dovish Democrats. As he says ...
From Marshallâs posts, youâd think that all Democrats were Iraq hawksâcomfortable with the idea of the Iraq war itself, so long as the war involved more troops, or only against the war because of prudent calculations about troop requirements. In fact, a huge chunk of the Democratic Party was against the Iraq war from the start, and would have opposed it even ifâno, especially ifâthey thought that war could be won ... The dovish inclination of the Democratic base has acted as a major constraint on our policy in Iraq.
I commend the whole piece to you. But the essence of the argument is that Democratic doves have exaggerated Bush's screw-ups, constrained his ability to address problems and are in fact the root cause of Don Rumsfeld's cartoonish version of military transformation, which has played a key role in the unfolding of the disaster. In so many words, waging this war as long as the Democratic doves were around was just too much for the president, though he made some mistakes along the way too.
Some arguments -- and that is his argument -- are so silly as to require no mockery.
The first thing to do or say is to class this with the rising political chorus against accountability which is now the theme song of the Bush-adulating right in DC. But the argument is so vapid that a little bit more requires saying.
When Vietnam war stalwarts blamed Democrats for keeping President Nixon from winning the war in Vietnam there was at least a theoretical logic to the argument. I don't agree with it. And I think pretty much any reasonably-minded historical judgment would concur. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s the Democrats did
control the Congress and thus the purse strings and oversight. So there was at least some logical means that congressional Democrats could have used to break President Nixon's stride.
But what excuse does President Bush have exactly? His party has controlled the Congress with lockstep majorities for his entire presidency. The one exception came in the Senate from 2001 to 2002. And that was before the war even started. If I'm not mistaken we've been treated to half a dozen years of commentary and news about how the Democrats were defeated, impotent, divided and generally just lame. Since he was so early and outspoken in his criticism, I assume this means Howard Dean prevented President Bush from winning the Iraq war.
But really, how can the president blame anything on a powerless minority in Congress and not indict himself as the weakest and most pitiful chief executive the republic has ever had?
President Bush has had the great benefit of what was up to quite recently a gelded opposition, a pliant press corps and a public inclined to give the commander-in-chief most benefits of the doubt because of the scarring wound of 9/11. Yet, taken together, these folks tied his hands and kept him from winning the war.
If this is really the argument I think we can forget about whatever happened in Iraq and say that President Bush is simply too lame a leader, too big a buffoon on history's stage, to be president at all. How can you hope to defeat Saddam Hussein or al Qaida or even Kim Jong-Il if you can't even go toe-to-toe with Charlie Rangel?
The whole thing is sad. Establishment conservative commentary has devolved into what looks like a latter-day Scholasticism focused on finding more and more improbable arguments -- insurgents on the head of a pin -- for why President Bush isn't responsible for the catastrophe that has become of the policy he and his administration authored, planned and executed, more or less singlehandedly, for going on four years.
: Largely separate from the points raised in this post, let me take note of the fact that Kurtz says he was always more pessimistic than the Bush administration and many neo-cons about what we might call easy-democratization. And this recalled skepticism squares with my recollection of what Kurtz wrote at the time.)