Wednesday Morning Roundup

The headlines from today’s paper are not reassuring: terror in Mumbai, Baghdad boils, the Israeli incursion into Gaza continues, and spreads into Lebanon, Russian secret police publically arrest dissenters during an international conference about democracy, election troubles continue in Ukraine and Mexico.

Add to all this the troubling developments of the last few months – the Supreme Court’s challenge to much of the legal theory behind Bush’s war on terror, the growing belligerence of Iran and North Korea, the election success of Hamas, rising anti-Americanism in Latin America, the collapse of the Doha round of trade talks – and it is clear that American foreign policy – whatever today’s rationale is for it - is not achieving what we need it to. 

Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo has had a series of thoughtful posts this week about the utter failures of Bush.  As he wrote last night: “Put simply, do we not detect a pattern in which the foreign policy neoconservatives strike out boldly on some foreign policy adventure, flop right down on their faces and then present the cause of their undoing as a novel insight wrestled from the maw of history when in fact, to everyone else except for them, this 'insight' was completely obvious and predictable from the start?"

Yesterday EJ Dionne had what I believe was a polite column, suggesting that the debate over the Bush era will be a challenging and difficult one for the 2008 Republican Presidential candidates.  He’s right.  The failure of the modern conservatives to do the basics – keeping the world safe and secure, fostering broad-based prosperity, paying our bills, resisting corruption – has been astonishing.  At a very simple level they’ve just blown it, big time, and a lot of what we have to do now in America is set a new course while cleaning up the mess they’ve left.   Bush’s recent admission that bringing the troops home from Iraq would be something left to his successor was in its own way an admission of failure, a throwing up of his hands, a nod to that they given it their best shot and had failed.

Our view here is that the monumental failure of conservative government is the most important political and intellectual story of our time, one with profound consequences for America and our future, and is something we as progressives must put front and center in the fall elections and beyond.   I reprint a portion of an essay we released hours before the State of the Union earlier this year (this essay and other ones on the topic of the conservative movement can be found at our Meeting the Conservative Challenge page):

“Tonight the President reports to the nation on the State of the Union. We will hear soaring rhetoric, powerful words, a President resolute and determined. We will hear of victories, progress, and pride. He will tell a compelling story – and very little of it will be true.  The truly compelling story of this decade is one that Bush doesn’t want told – the rapid and dramatic failure of conservative government.

Finally in a position of virtually unchecked power after decades in the political wilderness, modern conservatives have failed quickly and utterly at the most basic responsibilities of governing, leaving our nation weaker and our people less prosperous, less safe and less free.  Seduced by the temptations of power, these movement ideologues also quickly came to believe that the rules of our democracy did not apply to them. The result is one of the farthest-reaching episodes of corruption and criminal investigations into a governing party in our history.

To fully appreciate the State of the Union, we need a deep understanding of the conservative movement and its rise to power. Jumpstarted a little more than fifty years ago by William F. Buckley’s National Review, the conservatives began their long march to power by investing billions of dollars in a modern infrastructure to combat the entrenched position of progressives in government. They used this infrastructure – think tanks, for-profit media, superior and innovative forms of electioneering – to defeat an aging progressive movement, and now have more power than at any time since the 1920s.

In recent years America has learned what life is like under a true conservative government. With near absolute power, conservatives have pursued their agenda with little compromise or input from progressives. The latest chapter of the great conservative story – the Bush years – may have been one of political victories, but it has also been one of disastrous governance. The broad and deep failures of the Bush government should cause all Americans to reappraise the virtue of this grand conservative experiment, recognizing that even after 50 years and untold billions of dollars, they have yet to come up with a true alternative to 20th century progressive government -- which did so much good, for so long.”

I hope the NDN can make getting this conversation into the public debate one of our highest priorities for the remainder of the year. 

Comments

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