“Conservatives” Have No Excuse for “Mea Culpas” Now
I read with something bordering on disgust Paul Craig Roberts’ most recent editorial, “Bush is No Conservative.” In fact, I found it so disheartening that I felt compelled to send an email to the good Dr. Roberts taking him to task for it. While I have no quarrel whatsoever with his basic premise, encapsulated neatly by the editorial's title, I simply cannot believe that Bush’s true nature comes as a surprise to one of the most astute observers of American political culture. If so, this bears ill for
Dr. Roberts, one of America’s most respected and widely read commentators, is a man whose raw courage, conviction, and adherence to principle has garnered the wrath of the neoconservative establishment, manifested in a nasty piece of character assassination published earlier this month by Ben Johnson in FrontPageMag.com, one of the neoconservative movement’s Goebbels-esque propaganda fonts. While I concede that Dr. Roberts’ piece may have been meant to simply summarize and inform, rather than express shock or dismay, he references economist and historian Bruce Bartlett’s recently published book Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, in which Bartlett reveals his own shock and dismay at the discovery that President Bush is no conservative. My question to Dr. Roberts is, why does Mr. Bartlett’s book merit your endorsement, when you of all people have been trumpeting, practically since day one of Bush’s first term, that the president is anything but conservative, and is in fact a positive danger to the country?
The point I attempted drive across to Paul Craig is that if I, an unwashed “working stiff” unschooled in the formal social and political sciences could see right through Bush from day one, how could he, Mr. Bartlett, or any other seasoned “conservative” pundits not have seen through Bush from the start as well? The answer is almost certainly that conservatives, desperate for a role model with name recognition, were ready to throw their support to anyone within the establishment who paid lip service to “conservative” values, regardless of whether or not they practiced what they preached. As I also pointed out in my email, Mr. Bartlett, from my recollection of his editorial contributions to the Washington Times (my subscription to which I cancelled in disgust two years ago), varied not one wit from his colleagues on that paper’s staff in raising his journalistic right arm in Fuehrerheil to Bush on a regular basis, even as Bush regularly trashed every conservative principle Mr. Bartlett and his “conservative” colleagues allegedly held dear. Not suffering from the historical A.D.D. and selective amnesia of most “conservative” Americans, I found it simply offensive that
I closed the email by assuring Dr. Roberts that, while I have no doubt that Mr. Bartlett is his long-time friend and colleague, it is essential that Dr. Roberts publicly confront him and other deluded conservatives, however diplomatically and gently, for having fallen for such utter rubbish as the Bush ideology, for all of them should clearly have known better. Again, if the likes of Liberranter could see straight through the whole charade, what does it say about the punditocracy of the Right if they were blinded by it? Alas, methinks the problem was less one of blindness than one of spinelessness and powerful wishful thinking.
Regardless of their motives or their reasons for condoning or supporting Bush, it is essential that those “conservatives” who have seen the light stand up and apologize, publicly, for their lack of insight and judgment. Failure to do so will irreparably tarnish the conservative movement’s image, assuming that this has not already happened, and will lead to further failures and disasters in the near future.
By now you are probably asking, why do you, Liberranter, as a libertarian, give a damn what Paul Craig Roberts or any other “conservative” thinks or says about Bush? First, let me be clear: My quarrel is not with the idea that Dr. Roberts has not adequately condemned Bush for his transgressions, for he has more than thoroughly and adequately done so. My quarrel is with the idea that he now seems to express surprise at what he himself has revealed in his editorials as the obvious truth for the last four-plus years. But getting back to the original rhetorical question, my answer is twofold. First, many of the principles (ostensibly) underlying conservative thought are fully compatible with (indeed, identical to) those of libertarianism. These include the belief in limited, republican constitutional government (i.e., the least amount of government possible); the natural rights of man as enumerated in the Bill of Rights, a free market, and the rule of law. Second, the principled paleoconservatives, who count among their number not only Paul Craig Roberts, but Charley Reese and Joseph Sobran, among others, have been among the most prominent figures to challenge Bush and his abominations during the past five years, often at considerable personal and professional risk. For this reason they deserve both credit and support.