Friday, March 14, 2003

A well deserved and long overdue spanking

The editors of the New York Observer come out swinging with an opinion piece as harsh on "a callow and blustering" Bush as anything I have read in the blogosphere. It also lays into the Democrats "hiding under Washington toadstools" and the reporters who cover Bush ("a docile collection of game-show hosts"). But it reserves the lion share of the opprobrium on Dubya.
Somehow, the Bush administration’s cowboys have done the unthinkable. They have alienated friends, ruined international relationships, squandered the good will and sympathy that the Sept. 11 atrocities inspired, and turned America into a global villain. All of this, while Saddam Hussein smiles and watches the world turn in his favor, inheriting the gusts of international opinion that Mr. Bush has mind-bogglingly forfeited. Rarely in modern times has such a blundering swap taken place. A poll in an Irish newspaper recently found that the majority of respondents in that America-friendly country believed that George Bush was a bigger threat to peace than Saddam. It is not just those perfumed pansies in Paris who are alarmed by our behavior. Somehow Mr. Bush has contrived to have people the world over see this nation—the nation that created the Marshall Plan and ended the Cold War—as an international menace on matters of security, on the environment, on justice and on fair trade. With its Reagan-era bluster and frat-house machismo, the Bush administration has played into the hands of terrorists, breaking apart NATO and fracturing half-century-old relations with Europe that have persevered through all the roilings of post–World War II history. And the administration did it at just the very moment when the West has been targeted—not by that wretched despot Saddam, but by the murderous followers of Osama bin Laden. Thanks to the President and his hubristic crew of ideologues, America and Europe are not united, as they should be, in the face of global Islamic militancy. Instead, many people talk about the end of America’s strategic alliance with Western Europe. Instead of France and Germany, some say, we will simply align ourselves with the post-Communist states of Eastern Europe—like, say, Bulgaria. Osama bin Laden did not create this sad state of affairs. George W. Bush did. Rarely in the face of war has the leadership in this country—both the executive and the opposition—served it so badly. The opposition has cynically acquiesced; they have not challenged this intellectually challenged President. There are, as Thomas Friedman has pointed out so eloquently in The New York Times, many merits to the argument for the war; the President has not made them. Mr. Bush, having painted himself into a diplomatic corner unlike any in American history, has created rationales for attack that are less in the tradition of American war Presidents like Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, even Bush Sr., and more in the tradition of William McKinley as he bumbled his way into the Spanish-American war. These are hyperbolic and misinformed times. So it was hardly surprising to hear a television commentator report, just before the President’s press conference, that Mr. Bush was not expected to use the opportunity to declare war on Iraq. It did not occur to the reporter—any more than it has to Mr. Bush and his bunch of crusaders—that no President has ever declared war, because no President has ever had that power. Congress declares war; it’s in the Constitution. Yes, Congress—that reviled collection of the people’s representatives—declares war in this Republic. Why? The Founders understood that the power to declare war was so awesome and so serious that it should not be one person’s decision. The test of this nation at this moment may not be creating democracy in Iraq; it may be in reacquainting the American people and their institutions and President with the glory and responsibility of American democracy itself.
At least this one institution in the establishment has finally decided that enough is enough.


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