If they were true to their principles, moderate Republicans and consistent conservatives would be supporting John Kerry. Instead, their acquiescence to the reckless whims of George W. Bush marks a descent into that political abyss of opportunism where partisanship is everything and principle nothing.
How else to explain their cynical support for this shallow adventurer, a phony lightweight who has bled the Treasury dry while incompetently squandering the lives of young Americans in a needless imperial campaign? If Al Gore had been knighted president by the Supreme Court and overseen this mess instead of Dubya, the rational remnant of the Republican Party would be rightly calling for his head.
Instead, a century’s worth of conservative ideals are tossed out the window for political expediency. Soaring budget deficits suddenly don’t matter, and not a tear is shed for the wasted surplus accumulated during Bill Clinton’s tenure. Despite two huge tax cuts for the super-rich, Bush turns out to be a big believer in that old GOP boogeyman, Big Government. An equal-opportunity spendthrift, he throws billions into the sinkhole of Iraq as easily as he doles out corporate handouts.
In the newspapers we read about American mothers and fathers working in deadly Iraq as drivers and security guards because they can’t find work at home. More than a million jobs have been lost since the end of the prosperous Clinton era, while real wages are stagnant. The rich have enjoyed unprecedented tax breaks even as the middle class has eroded and millions have fallen below the poverty line.
Healthcare costs are spiraling, nothing has been done to shore up Social Security and Medicare against the impending flood of retiring baby boomers, and the number of those without medical insurance is a national embarrassment -- though perhaps not to the former governor of Texas, a state that far and away leads the country in this disquieting statistic.
Bush’s startling inattention to our serious problems is explained away by reference to the new burden of the war on terror. How odd, then, to note that it was Bush’s preoccupation with Iraq both before and after 9/11 that has left us so vulnerable to Muslim hatred and terrorist attacks. Before Sept. 11, 2001, ignored warnings and flaccid response; afterward, a campaign of lies to justify a military occupation at the Muslim world’s heart.
Instead of making the U.S. safer, the hasty and unilateral dive into the Iraq quagmire shredded the post-9/11 international unity of purpose indispensable to any serious effort to root out terrorism.
But don’t take my word for it: That the occupation of Iraq is a festering disaster was finally acknowledged by some Republican senators on Sunday’s talk shows in the wake of the latest depressing prognostications of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“The fact is, we’re in deep trouble in Iraq,” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) conceded. “We made serious mistakes,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blamed the glaring failures in Iraq on “the incompetence in the administration.”
Unfortunately, the solution offered by these Republican critics was an escalation of the U.S. military effort, the root cause of the rising anti-U.S. nationalism in Iraq that is crossing ethnic, religious and regional lines. A true conservative would heed George Washington’s warning to avoid such foreign entanglements. This is why in 2000, candidate Bush, pretending to be conservative, said he was against “nation-building.” Now, led by radical ideologues way outside the conservative mainstream, he’s got us trying to build two nations -- and failing -- with many in his administration hoping to take on a few more in a second term. Talk about flip-flopping.
On Monday, Kerry made his strongest case yet that Bush was leading us dangerously astray. “Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight,” Kerry said, calling Iraq a “profound diversion” from the war on terror. “The satisfaction we take in [Saddam Hussein’s] downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.”
Kerry has now framed the debate we need to have concerning American priorities. And in their hearts, responsible Republicans and independents must now realize that Kerry is right.