February 27, 2003

Bush's neo-con speech It's too

Bush's neo-con speech

It's too bad he hasn't been giving speeches like this all along, but it's welcome nonetheless. After weeks of "leaks" and trial balloons about proposed scenarios for post-Saddam Iraq, the administration seems to have, at last, committed itself to the pro-democracy, neo-con program, or at least something along those lines. At the very least, any further waffling, wobbling, or backtracking, any hint that our efforts at Liberation will be less than sincere or thorough, any nod to the stability-at-all-costs mantra of Foggy Bottom and the GHWB alumni, can now be criticized fairly powerfully with a playback of the President's own words.

Yes, I had thought that to be the case after the 2002 State of the Union Address, as well. That was a good speech, too. How could he face the nation in 2003 with Saddam still in power? He did, and he could. And when he did, he gave pretty much the same speech, almost as though the intervening year hadn't even happened. In effect, anyway. That's the thing about speeches. You can say any damned thing you want. There's good bluster, and there's bad bluster, and there's bluster whose virtue waits upon events, but it's all never more than bluster until somebody does something. The hawkish commentariat and the supporters of "regime change" were singularly ineffective at pointing that out in such a way as to hold him to those words. The ditherer-in-chief got a free pass. If they're at all sincere about this Democracy stuff-- as many of them are-- they will have to do much better this time.

If Bush keeps speaking in this idiom, some of the non-partisans, the "loyal opposition," reasonable skeptics, unconvinced idealists and the like may even be swayed by it. As to the disloyal opposition (if it's permitted to use such an inflammatory term) nothing he could say or do would have any effect. For within the ranks of reasonable skeptics, honest Democratic partisans, and informed worry warts, there is a small sub-sector whose strident opposition to Bush's policies, regardless of what they may be, has solidified, atrophied, engraved itself in granite. This rigid antipathy is personal, emotional, sentimental and, it seems, quite intoxicating. If someone had loaded the AEI teleprompter with a McGovernite speech, or a Nader campaign press release, or a chapter of "Stupid White Men," or the lyrics to "Imagine," they'd still be calling him Hitler. (And, to be fair, it must be conceded that many of the partisans in the AEI audience would still have applauded.) It is interesting to speculate whether these hearts and minds would have ended up quite so impervious to persuasion if Bush had been giving this kind of speech all along. I have no idea. But I do know that if this was just a case of putting on the neo-con hat for a special occasion, he will have given this skeptic grounds for further cynicism.

(Of course, in practical terms, the bluster-o-meter matters much less than the fact that the French attempt to wound the US by bringing down the Blair government appears to have failed.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 27, 2003 09:10 AM | TrackBack