For more than sixty years the American Right has been fueled by a “stabbed in the back” meme. As Kevin Baker wrote,
Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.
On Sunday, Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money noted current developments in back-stabbing:
The stab-in-the-back narrative is now in full gear. What Kaus merely abets, Glenn Reynolds, Mark Steyn, and the editors of Investors Business Daily push full throttle; America will lose because of the perfidy of liberals. The Surge is providing the proximate excuse. After four years of disastrous ineptitude during which Reynolds et al happily watched the Bush administration destroy America’s standing in the world and wage the most incompetent conflict since the War of 1812, they’ve decided that opposition to the trivial escalation provided by the Surge is the final necessary indicator of treason in the Democratic Party.
A Congress, or a president, prepared to quit the game of “who gets the blame” could begin to alter American strategy in ways that will vastly improve the prospects of a more stable Middle East. …
… The first and most critical step is to recognize that fighting on now simply prolongs our losses and blocks the way to a new strategy. Getting out of Iraq is the pre-condition for creating new strategic options. Withdrawal will take away the conditions that allow our enemies in the region to enjoy our pain. It will awaken those European states reluctant to collaborate with us in Iraq and the region.
Sooner or later, U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq. And just as the Right whined that Franklin Roosevelt gave away eastern Europe at Yalta, and that “liberals” in the State Department “lost China” to Mao, and that we could have “won” in Vietnam were it not for the dirty bleeping hippies, the Right will spend the rest of this century pointing fingers at the Left for losing Iraq. Count on it.
But now the Right is in self-marginalization mode, commonly called “eating their own.” For example, Republican presidential candidate John McCain has blamed Donald Rumsfeld for the “mismanagement” of the war. And the True Believers are outraged. One called this a “cheap shot” and declared McCain to be “anathema in 2008.” Another predicted that McCain’s campaign would end in a “well-deserved rout.”
John Hinderaker of Power Line attempts nuance:
McCain is entitled to editorialize, of course, and I believe he has been consistent in calling for more troops. It seems odd to blame Rumsfeld, though; the administration’s position has always been that it would provide more troops if the generals said they needed them. The military judgment of the generals on the ground has been, up until recently, that they had enough personnel to do the job.
In other words, the “commanders on the ground” didn’t want more troops as long as George Bush didn’t want to send more troops, but now that he wants to send some, they have changed their minds. None of these meatheads can extrapolate from this that Bush doesn’t give a bleep what the “commanders on the ground” think.
My guess is that McCain’s criticism is more about the future than the past. What he really wants is to buy time for the surge to work. As Paul noted yesterday, McCain has acknowledged that if the surge doesn’t work, there probably won’t be sufficient public support for the war effort to try a Plan B. By emphasizing the alleged “mismanagement” of the past, McCain is trying to generate optimism that, if properly run and adequately manned, our effort can succeed.
Slightly off topic, but noteworthy:
While McCain is entitled to editorialize, the AP reporter isn’t. But get this, immediately after McCain’s criticism of Rumsfeld:
The comments were in sharp contrast to McCain’s statement when Rumsfeld resigned in November, and failed to address the reality that President Bush is the commander in chief.
Apparently it’s a matter of policy at the Associated Press that President Bush be blamed for everything, so the reporter made up for McCain’s omission.
Apparently it’s a matter of policy among rightie bloggers that President Bush be blamed for nothing, in spite of the fact that he claims to be “the Decider.” It’s as if, deep down inside, they know he’s an empty suit and don’t expect anything from him but speeches and ribbon-cutting. For another point of view, see “George Bush as Fifth Columnist: Aiding America’s Enemies” by Doug Bandow at Antiwar.com.
Back to the marginalization of the Right — there’s an old saying — Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. The Republican Party stopped being “centrist” years ago, and instead based its power on a coalition of hard-right whackjob factions — Fetus People, Gun People, homophobes, isolationists, neocons, racists, etc. And now it’s flea-bit. As DownWithTyranny asks (and I love the photo), how could any candidate possibly win the GOP nomination by appealing to these mutts and still be marketable in the general election?
But for a real stabbed-in-the-back extravaganza, check out Richard Viguerie’s new book, Conservatives Betrayed. Along with John McCain, entities identified by Viguerie as backstabbers include Congress, Democrats (of course), and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Viguerie also feels “betrayed” by President Bush. You’ll love the reason why —
Even after being mercilessly pummeled by them time and again on every issue during his first six years as President, George W. Bush has not learned his lesson — he still wants to make friends with the Democrats. Albert Einstein said it best: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”
Naturally, the President of the (entire) United States must shun the majority party, or else he’s a traitor. I guess Viguerie hasn’t noticed Bush’s long-standing pattern of making conciliatory noises even as his actions prove he doesn’t mean it.
An online poll identifies the worst offenders: “Conservative leaders who kept silent while the GOP became the party of Big Government”; corruption, legal and illegal; President Bush (doesn’t say why); “Mainstream media that may have influenced the voters to throw out the Republicans”; “Conservative media that kept silent while the GOP became the party of Big Government”; Sen. Ted Stevens; Sen. Bill Frist; Rep Dennis Hastert; and “Blunders and misstatements by Republican candidates.”
You can see the stabbed-in-the-back mentality all over this list. Republicans didn’t lose in 2006 because they screwed up, or because they are out of step with most voters. They were betrayed.