It’s been a hard five years, folks, and there’s more hard times ahead. But today let’s take a moment to enjoy a delicious, self-gratifying wallow in I told you so.
Bruce Bartlett, the author of â€œImpostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy,â€ is an angry man. At a recent book forum at the Cato Institute, he declared that the Bush administration is â€œunconscionable,â€ â€œirresponsible,â€ â€œvindictiveâ€ and â€œinept.â€
Itâ€™s no wonder, then, that one commentator wrote of Mr. Bartlett that â€œif he were a cartoon character, he would probably look like Donald Duck during one of his famous tirades, with steam pouring out of his ears.â€
Oh, wait. Thatâ€™s not what somebody wrote about Mr. Bartlett. Itâ€™s what Mr. Bartlett wrote about me in September 2003, when I was saying pretty much what heâ€™s saying now.
The truth is that everything the new wave of Bush critics has to say was obvious long ago to any commentator who was willing to look at the facts.
Mr. Bartlettâ€™s book is mainly a critique of the Bush administrationâ€™s fiscal policy. Well, the administrationâ€™s pattern of fiscal dishonesty and irresponsibility was clear right from the start to anyone who understands budget arithmetic. The chicanery that took place during the selling of the 2001 tax cut â€” obviously fraudulent budget projections, transparently deceptive advertising about who would benefit and the use of blatant accounting gimmicks to conceal the planâ€™s true cost â€” was as bad as anything that followed.
The false selling of the Iraq war was almost as easy to spot. All the supposed evidence for an Iraqi nuclear program was discredited before the war â€” and it was the threat of nukes, not lesser W.M.D., that stampeded Congress into authorizing Mr. Bush to go to war. The administrationâ€™s nonsensical but insistent rhetorical linkage of Iraq and 9/11 was also a dead giveaway that we were being railroaded into an unnecessary war.
Some are not giving up on the Iraq-9/11 connection. Recently Michael Barone published an utterly nonsensical screed in which he blasts people who hold the view “with religious intensity” that there was no Iraq-9/11 connection. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” he thunders. “We do not know that there was such collaboration. But we also do not know that there was not.”
So let’s get this straight. Barone admits that no evidence has come to light that Saddam Hussein had any connection to 9/11. He admits the 9/11 commission found no evidence of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. There is documentation — which Barone doesn’t mention — that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden never liked or trusted each other, but leave that aside. Barone’s point seems to be that people who don’t believe in a 9/11-Saddam Hussein connection — because we have no evidence to support it — are being irrational, or else are trying “to delegitimize our war effort.” Those who hang on to their belief in such a connection in the absence of evidence are smart.
Krugman points out another cognitive anomaly:
… we should guard against a conventional wisdom that seems to be taking hold in some quarters, which says there’s something praiseworthy about having initially been taken in by Mr. Bush’s deceptions, even though the administration’s mendacity was obvious from the beginning.
According to this view, if you’re a former Bush supporter who now says, as Mr. Bartlett did at the Cato event, that “the administration lies about budget numbers,” you’re a brave truth-teller. But if you’ve been saying that since the early days of the Bush administration, you were unpleasantly shrill.
Similarly, if you’re a former worshipful admirer of George W. Bush who now says, as Mr. Sullivan did at Cato, that “the people in this administration have no principles,” you’re taking a courageous stand. If you said the same thing back when Mr. Bush had an 80 percent approval rating, you were blinded by Bush-hatred.
This isn’t just a right-wing phenomenon, of course. A lot of liberal bloggers and Democrats who originally had supported the invasion of Iraq still seem to think they are “smarter” on security issues than those of us who saw what a sham it was from the beginning. Go figure.
Dear former hawks: I told you so.
At the Washington Post, Peter Baker writes that the rats are deserting the ship.
“He has no political capital,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. “Slowly but surely it’s been unraveling. There’s been a direct correlation between the trajectory of his approval numbers and the — I don’t want to call it disloyalty — the independence on the part of the Republicans in Congress.”
We don’t want to call it disloyalty. No, no, no. Loyalty is more important than responsibility to the Right. Let’s call it we don’t want to be tied to this loser when the mid-term election campaigns heat up.
You know something significant is happening when even David Broder notices it.
… the [Dubai port] conflict brought to the surface deep-seated resentments from the Capitol end of Pennsylvania Avenue toward the people around the president — and, surprisingly, toward Bush himself. The harmony that had prevailed during most of Bush’s tenure — the deference that a Republican-controlled Congress has generally shown to his wishes — disappeared. Even the normal circumspection with which congressional Republicans treat the White House withered in the unexpected heat of this dispute.
Broder goes on to wag a finger at Democrats — “Liberals such as Schumer” — for “playing with fire” by trying to “stoke the fever” of “nativist sentiment.” Which of course (cough) Republicans would never do (snort). I think some people have some catching up to do.
But the American People are finally seeing the light. Ron Fournier of the Associated Press writes today that large numbers of Americans are so disillusioned of Bush they might consider voting for Democrats. Wow.
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush’s performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency. …
… “I’m not happy with how things are going,” said Margaret Campanelli, a retiree in Norwich, Conn., who said she tends to vote Republican. “I’m particularly not happy with Iraq, not happy with how things worked with Hurricane Katrina.” …
… The poll suggests that most Americans wonder whether Bush is up to the job. … Personally, far fewer Americans consider Bush likable, honest, strong and dependable than they did just after his re-election campaign.
Dear American People: I told you so.