‘I Want My Neighbor’s Cow to Die’

George F. Will’s latest, on Iraq, by way of my brother John, who notes, “You know the jig is up when George Will sounds like Frank Rich.”

“Many months ago it became obvious to all but the most ideologically blinkered that America is losing the war launched to deal with a chimeric problem (an arsenal of WMD) and to achieve a delusory goal (a democracy that would inspire emulation, transforming the region). Last week the president retired his mantra ‘stay the course’ because it does not do justice to the nimbleness and subtlety of U.S. tactics for winning the war.

“A surreal and ultimately disgusting facet of the Iraq fiasco is the lag between when a fact becomes obvious and when the fiasco’s architects acknowledge that fact. Iraq’s civil war has been raging for more than a year; so has the Washington debate about whether it is what it is.”

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Armchair Entertainment: Conservative Rage

It’s always been a challenge to not simply write Bush off as a moron, someone who graduated at the very bottom of his Village Idiot class. And I still think it’s a mistake to make that belittling assumption. We’re not living in “Being There,” and Bush is not Chance. But he has the knack of coming up with new brainstorms — the latest represented by Harriet Miers — that are sort of breathtaking for their pure defiance of opinion, of common sense, of the way the rest of the world might weigh reality. It’s not so much that he chose Miers, really; it’s that after choosing her, he could stand up and declare, “I picked the best person I could find.” He acts like he’s explaining why he chose Sam the plumber over Roto-Rooter to unstop the presidential plumbing.

Anyway, that’s all predictable liberal froth. What’s entertaining is to listen to conservatives voice their pique at the chief’s caprice (Bush’s insistence on war as the answer to the Saddam problem, and getting 2,000 Americans and 20-some thousand Iraqis blown to pieces over the last 30 months, hasn’t been quite enough to ignite their outrage). Here’s George Will in today’s Washington Post:

“The president’s ‘argument’ for [Miers] amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for several reasons.

“He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.

“Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers’s nomination resulted from the president’s careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers’s name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.”

Here’s the thing: Bush can choose whom he wants. He’s not compelled to pick from the 10,000 names on Will’s imaginary lists. In fact, it’s possible to imagine him winning praise for going outside the conventional wisdom to find an original thinker, and for acknowledging that that’s what he’s doing and explaining in detail why he’s doing it.

One of the memorable phrases at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence states that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires” the American colonies to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation” from Great Britain. That’s what’s lacking in Bush — ” a decent respect to the opinions” of those who must live with the effects of his decisions.

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