Conservatives Are Jumping Ship: Bush Is Going Down
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
I'm more and more convinced that it will be Republicans, many of them of the
true conservative and realist kind, who effectively will do in the Bush
In this, I am reminded of the behavior of Richard Nixon when he realized that he
was fast losing his middle-class, bourgeois base: He called it quits on the
Vietnam War, and likewise on his presidency after his crimes were exposed.
But unlike Nixon's crew, Bush&Co. seem willing to take the country down with
them, so desperate are they to hold onto power, deplete the treasury, pay off
their corporate friends, carry out their ideological revolution -- and keep
themselves out of the federal slammer.
The crimes of the Bush Administration are so many and varied that none of us
should be surprised by anything that might happen in the coming weeks and
months: Bin Laden captured or reported killed, a U.S.-Israeli air assault on
Iran's nuclear facilities, a major terrorist attack inside the U.S. to be
followed by martial law, the announcement of a bird-flu outbreak with the
military placed in charge. I'm pretty level-headed and don't usually think in
these dire terms, but these guys have backed themselves into a tight political
corner and are desperate -- and dangerous.
THE IMPLODING SCANDALS
Bush is at 34% approval rating (Cheney is at 18!), and their scandals are
blowing up in their faces: Katrina lies and incompetence; Iraq lies and
incompetence; the Dubai Ports deal and incompetence; GOP bribery and corruption;
Libby under indictment and Rove apparently about to be; Bush claiming authority
to authorize torture, spy on millions of American citizens and violate the law
whenever he incants the magic words "national security"; Congress
rebelling at being frozen out of decision-making, etc. etc. But in the face of
all that, the Roveian M.O. is always to attack their foes and to hype the fright
The Administration didn't have to consider the most extreme options until
recently, when the wheels started falling off the Bush bus. The attacks were no
longer coming mostly from liberals and Democrats; more and more, they were
coming from loyal conservative Republicans, who, cognizant of the sinking poll
numbers, saw the handwriting on the wall: They realized they could well lose
their majorities in the House and Senate -- in other words, severed from their
jobs and access to the spoils of power -- and they started distancing themselves
from the Administration.
So, rather than beating my usual drum here denouncing the high crimes and
misdemeanors of the Bush Administration, I thought I'd just lay out the comments
of those conservatives and let them speak for themselves. (My late friend Emile
de Antonio, the documentary filmmaker, taught me a good lesson; it's always
better, he pointed out, to quote what the Wall Street Journal is saying rather
than quoting a hippie or left-activist making the same point. When your own
posse smells the moral rot up top, the end is near.)
The quotes here are on Iraq and the neo-con ideologues who took this country to
war, though currently the flak is also coming hot and heavy from the Right on
both the domestic spying and Dubai ports scandals. (Even conservative Republican
Senator Richard Shelby says Bush broke the law in the way he handled the Dubai
ports contract, ) ( www.al.com/news/birminghamnews
81204040.xml&coll=2 ), and neo-con leader Bill Kristol ( http://thinkprogress.org/2006
-administration-incompetent ) suggests the other "i" word
("incompetent") in describing how Bush&Co. stumble around trying
to govern: "I think itŐs become in peopleŐs minds an emblem of the
administration that just isnŐt as serious about the competent execution of the
functions of government as it should be."
THE NEO-CONS BEHIND THE WAR
Let's begin with a reminder that the conservative establishment didn't agree
from the very beginning with Bush's neo-con obsession to invade Iraq. President
George H.W. Bush, who successfully organized a massive coalition to push Iraq's
army out of Kuwait in the first Gulf War, warned his son privately and through
his spokesmen of the dangerous consequences both of invading and occupying Iraq
and of doing so without wide international support. As he said of Iraq in
"A World Transformed" (written with Gen. Brent Scowcroft): "Had
we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an
occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically
different -- and perhaps barren -- outcome."
Fast forward to the present, when so many Republican stalwarts are saying, in
effect, that they backed the wrong horse. Their party was taken over by
rightwing extremists, incompetent at that, whose reckless neo-con policies are
doing great danger to the country and to the future of the once-great GOP.
Here's Melinda Pillsbury-Foster, ( www.americanpolitics.com
/20060301MPF.html ) chair of the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation, going even
beyond the war into the deeper crimes being committed against Americans'
>>"Most Americans do not yet realize that a war is being waged -- not
against Iraq but against each of us. It is not the Republican Party that is
charge in this administration but a small cadre who seized executive branch
power and converted it to their own uses. Most Republicans are experiencing a
deer-in-the-headlights moment right now. Their Party has been hijacked, their
president has been hijacked, and they do not know what to do. I remain a
registered Republican working for an effective coalition. The attack on us and
on our rights has hardly begun. You don't go to the trouble of setting up this
degree of control without having made plans to use it."
NEO-CON FUKUYAMA HAS SECOND THOUGHTS
Or try this out. Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the 1992 neo-con best-seller
"The End of History," is exhibiting some serious recantation ( http://news.scotsman.com
6 ) these days in interviews and in his new book, "America at the
He now says that neo-conservatism has "evolved into something I can no
longer support," and should be tossed onto history's pile of discredited
ideologies. The doctrine, which has demonstrated "the danger of good
intentions carried to extremes...is now in shambles," and needs to be
replaced by a more realistic foreign policy.
For example, though he once supported regime change in Iraq, he now believes the
war there is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the
United States from radical Islamism. Although the new and ominous possibility of
undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed
present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat
presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more
"By definition, outsiders can't 'impose' democracy on a country that
doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy
promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await
the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective."
THE CHENEY-RUMSFELD CABAL
Then we go to a long-time Administration stalwart who couldn't take it any more:
Lawrence Wilkerson, ( www.iht.com/articles/2005/12
/23/news/profile.php ) a retired U.S. Army colonel who was chief of staff
for Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States,
Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical
issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being
made," Wilkerson said in a well-publicized speech at the New America
Foundation last October. "And you've got a president who is not versed in
international relations and not too much interested in them either."
Wilkerson has also focused attacks on the Bush administration for condoning
torture, setting lax and ambiguous policies on treatment of detainees that
inevitably led to the scandal of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and
BUCKLEY BUCKLES TO REALITY
Onward to the intellectual godfather of the modern conservative movement,
National Review founding editor William F. Buckley Jr. ( www.nationalreview.com/buckley
/buckley200602241451.asp ), who concludes that what may have started as a
decent move has evolved into disaster:
>>"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed.
... Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable
by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for
civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but
they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the
shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols. ... Mr. Bush has a very difficult
internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is
strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times
affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that
he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in
foreign policy. ... The kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat."
THE TROOPS WANT OUT, SOON
Speaking of the troops in Iraq, recent polling ( www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews
.dbm?ID=1075 ) reveals that nearly 3 out of 4 of U.S troops in Iraq think
the U.S. should exit the country within the year, and more than one in four say
the troops should leave immediately. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
admits also that the Iraqis want us to leave "as soon as possible." ( http://news.ninemsn.com.au
Here are some pertinent comments by a U.S. soldier ( www.dailykos.com/story/2006/2
/28/121245/538 ) in Iraq, writing as "djtyg," about why the desire
to leave that country:
>>"We need to get out because our military cannot take much more of
this. We are stretched too thin and it's about to get worse. ... Soldiers are
frustrated. Every soldier I have talked to says that they are getting out of the
military when they get home. Every. One. Of. Them. Regardless of rank,
experience, or time in, they all want out. There has not been a single Soldier
I've talked to that says they want to stay in. This includes officers, NCOs, and
rookies who are on their first tour of duty. We need to get out of Iraq because
Iraq is the reason why the military is shrinking. We, like Cindy Sheehan, are
curious as to what 'noble cause' we are fighting for. We can't seem to find one.
This is weakening America. At the rate we are going, we are going to have a
military that can't fight because it has old and broken down equipment, and no
troops to fight a war with."
SEN. HAGEL LOWERS THE BOOM
Then there are key Republican senators who are willing to stick out their necks
by talking truth to power about Iraq. For example, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel
/AR2005111501450_pf.html ), who said the U.S. is losing in Iraq and raised a
parallel to an earlier conflict.
The Vietnam War, he said, "was a national tragedy partly because members of
Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to
challenge the administrations in power until it was too late. To question your
government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is
unpatriotic," he said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because
of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform
a policy worthy of their sacrifices."
O'REILLY QUESTIONS STAYING IN IRAQ
So, let's see: Bush is losing old-money Republican conservatives, GOP senators,
neo-con theorists outside the Cheney-Rumsfeld nexus, military insiders, troops
under fire in Iraq -- who else can he lose? Would you believe the lunatic
fringe, as symbolized by that raving Limbaugh wannabee Bill O'Reilly? ( http://mediamatters.org/items
/200602220007 ) The Fox News pundit, who usually is in lockstep with the
Bush program and calls anybody who criticizes those policies idiots and worse,
had this to say the other day about the need to get out of Iraq ASAP:
"[We need to] hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly
possible [because] there are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies --
that we can't control them."
GOP DISCONTENT ON NATIONAL SECURITY
Well, one could go on and on with the criticism coming from the Right --
conservative former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, former Reagan
Administration official Paul Craig Roberts, Congressional Dem warhawk John
Murtha, et al. The point is that the Republicans, formerly associated with a
winning national-security message, are now regarded much differently by many GOP
politicos and rank-and-file citizens.
Many Representatives and Senators also deeply resent the way the Congress has
been frozen out of the power loop ( www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn
/AR2006022801607.html ) by the Bush Administration. "We simply want to
participate and aren't going to be PR flacks when they need us," Florida's
conservative GOP Congressman Mark Foley said. "We all have roles. We have
oversight. When you can't answer your constituents when they have legitimate
questions -- we can't simply do it on trust."
Scott Reed, who managed Robert Dole's 1996 presidential campaign, called the
current low poll ratings for Bush and the GOP "pretty
shattering," noting especially that Bush's support among Republicans fell
from 83 percent to 72 percent. "The repetition of the news coming out of
Iraq is wearing folks down," Reed said. "It started with women
[voters] and it's spreading. It's just bad news after bad news after bad news,
without any light at the end of the tunnel."
THE PRESIDENT AS DICTATOR
"Even if you're a Republican member of Congress, you don't buy the
exaggerated view of the unified executive theory, in which the only part of the
Constitution that matters is Article II," on presidential power, said James
B. Steinberg, a dean at the University of Texas at Austin. "If you want
them to be in on the landing, you have to have people there for the
For example, two staunch conservative Southern Senators ( www.usnews.com/usnews/news
/articles/060313/13glo.htm ) won't accept Bush's Unified Executive theory of
governance. "I think the administration has looked at the legitimate power
of the executive during a time of war and taken it to extremes," said
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "[It's] to the point that
we'd lose constitutional balance. Under their theory, there would be almost no
role for the Congress or the courts." Mississippi's Sen. Trent Lott was
even more blunt: "Don't put your fist in my face."
EVEN WALL ST. IS TALKING IMPEACHMENT
All those defections from the Bush orbit are doing great damage to the
once-unified Bush&Co. juggernaut, but I've left out one key one: Wall
Street. The titans of finance are agitated, to the point of raising the
awareness of the possibility of impeachment or even urging serious consideration
of Bush's removal.
The Wall Street Journal, ( www.democrats.com/wsj-impeachp
ac ) alone among mainstream daily newspapers, has deigned to mention that
there is a growing impeachment movement and an active PAC (impeachpac.org).
And here's some of what Barron's Editorial Page Editor Thomas G. Donlan wrote in
that establishment financial journal: ( www.buzzflash.com/analysis/05
>>...The administration is saying the president has unlimited authority to
order wiretaps in the pursuit of foreign terrorists, and that the Congress has
no power to overrule him...Perhaps they were researched in a Star Chamber?
Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The
president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those
enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of
the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies,
such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the
country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.
>>Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is
at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk
and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who
staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this
>>It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to
that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right
not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping
rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the
rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law. ...
THREE MORE YEARS?
So, friends, when we're down in the dumps, depressed by the fact that
Bush&Co. are still in power even in the face of all their lies and bumblings
and policies that result in thousands of people getting killed and maimed and
tortured, let us consider that even their once-loyal rats are deserting the
sinking ship of state.
The thought of nearly three more years of Bush&Co. misrule is too horrible
to contemplate. So let's ratchet up the pressure, incorporate distressed GOP
moderates and conservatives into the impeachment momentum, and send the Bush
Bunker crew packing and return the country to reasonable people dedicated to a
restoration of Constitutional rule of law and a realistic foreign policy. It's
the least we can do for our country. #
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at
various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
To comment, write >>[email protected]
Originally published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 3/7/06.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner.