Three Long Years

George W. Bush, over U.S. Presidential seal, partial graphic 2005/4/28 AP / CBS

This column was written by Michael Tomasky.
There will be those who will ape the line put out yesterday by White House spokesman Trent Duffy with regard to the pre-Katrina videotape obtained by the Associated Press. They will say that the tape shows merely that George W. Bush was "engaged," taking charge, discussing the matter days before Katrina made landfall.

They'll say it; they'll know that they're lying. What the tape and transcripts show is obvious. Bush didn't act on these desperate warnings, and then, by Thursday, September 1, lied about them when he said no one "anticipated the breach of the levees."

I was at a dinner last night when I first heard about this. Someone had a copy of the AP story in his jacket pocket. As I was discussing it with another journalist, his sole response was to shake his head and say, "Three more years."

Good God, I thought; he's right. We still need to endure three more years (okay, minus seven weeks) of this.

I'm really not sure at this point that the country and the world will survive three more years of this bumbling, deceitful, artificial, and thoroughly mediocre man, and his bumbling, deceitful, artificial, and thoroughly mediocre courtiers. (Liberals, let's just start saying it insistently and unapologetically: We were not being "elitists"; we were right in the first place – he is just not smart enough to be the president of the United States.)

I suppose the world has survived far worse; it did survive Hitler (and no, this is not a "Hitler comparison"; I said Hitler was far worse, so leave that frail and exaggerated arrow in your quiver). So, yes, I suppose we'll "survive" in the sense that the United States of America and the world will still be here.

But what kind of country and world? I say this not as an ideologue, but as a citizen: The prospect of relying on these incompetents to protect us and manage the world for three more years is genuinely alarming.

I live in the metropolitan area and work in the heart of the city that is target number two (maybe three; maybe one) for a nuclear dirty bomb. What evidence am I supposed to rely on to think that this might not happen next year, next week, tomorrow?

The administration's defenders will say that there hasn't been an attack since 9-11. The rest of us, in the real world, know the truth: They could have done a lot more, perhaps even prevented 9-11 in the first place; and while no administration can prevent everything, this one's policies and actions have increased hatred of America and made the possibility of such attacks far more likely. We know that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has nearly quadrupled since 9-11, in part because of this administration's actions.

Virtually everything is inside-out; virtually every reality, the opposite of what they say. Saddam has the weapons to harm us; Saddam had no such weapons. The terrorists are on the run; the terrorists are increasing in number and violence. The insurgency is in its death throes; the insurgency was just kicking into gear when Dick Cheney said that. We will prevail in Iraq; the soldiers themselves say that isn't possible. Clear skies; relaxed pollution standards. Intelligent design, something that deserves equal footing to science; a massive case of intellectual fraud, payola to a constituency, completely invented out of whole cloth. We won't negotiate with rogue states; we will instead isolate and vanquish North Korea; North Korea now has nuclear weapons it never had before. Dubai is our ally; Dubai boycotts Israel. This list could go on for about 5,000 words.

We're at a danger point. When we learn that the president of the United States was told in certain terms that one of the great cities in his country (and, if you want to put it this way, in a state he carried twice) was in grave danger, and his response was not to act but to engage in the simulacrum of action, to behave as if he were playing himself in TV drama where the writers would make sure that it all worked out well in the end — when we learn something like that, we should be appalled and alarmed. Anyone who doesn't say so either knows he or she is lying or is some sort of sociopath.

Honest conservative intellectuals: your nation needs you. Say, "Enough." By tradition, you believe in honorable principles. Today, you are flacking for an administration that has betrayed many of those principles. The principles to which it has maintained fealty, like low taxes, it has pursued at a high price to other principles you cherish, like fiscal prudence.

The principles it has created after 9-11, like the Bush Doctrine, might have worked in theory but have been so wantonly executed that the irresponsibility borders on the criminal, which should offend you far more than it offends me. And finally, I know that you have to have your limits with respect to lies and dishonesty and Kool-Aid drinking. You're not elected officials who need dams built in your states; Karl Rove can't do anything to you.

I'll make the following promises: If a future Democratic administration takes us into a war of volition, and we later learn that its case was bogus, I will denounce it for lying us into war and urge every liberal writer I know to do so. If a future Democratic administration betrays core liberal principles — by, say, offering a large tax cut without at least working toward universal health care — I will deplore it and encourage other liberals to do so. If a future Democratic administration circumvents process and leases our port operations to a nation that boycotts Israel, I will not make hypocritical noises about racism but will instead encourage all liberals to agree it's a really bad idea. And, if a future Democratic administration lets a major American city die out of malign neglect, I shall calumniate it to the heavens – and insist that every other liberal writer I know to do the same.

Please, folks. Join the world of facts and evidence. You have real conservatism to save, and you have 1,051 days in which to do it.
By Michael Tomasky.
Reprinted with permission from The American Prospect, 5 Broad Street, Boston, MA 02109. All rights reserved
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