WASHINGTON On one
channel tonight, we can watch the iconic side of the Bush presidency. In the
risibly revisionist Showtime movie "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis," George
W. Bush is Vin Diesel-tough as he battles terrorists. "If some tinhorn
terrorist wants me, tell him to come get me," the fictional president
fictionally snaps on Air Force One after the 9/ll attacks. "I'll just be
waiting for the bastard."
On network channels at the
same time W. is pre-empting himself! we can watch the ironic side of the
Bush presidency. Even though Bush the Younger has done everything in his power
not to replicate the fate of his dad, he is replicating the fate of his dad.
Only months after swaggering out of a successful war with Iraq, he is struggling
with the economy. His numbers have fallen so fast, Top Gun is now tap dancing.
He will address the nation to try to underscore the imaginary line that links
the budget-busting pit of Iraq to the heartbreaking pit of 9/11.
Just as the father failed
to finish off Saddam, so the son has failed to finish off Saddam. Just as the
conservatives once carped that the father did not go far enough in Iraq, now the
"cakewalk" crowd carps that the son does not go far enough.
"We need to get Iraq
right and we're trying to do it a little bit on the cheap," Bill Kristol,
the Weekly Standard editor, chastised on "Nightline." "I think we
could use more troops; we could certainly use more money."
The more you do, the more
you need to do. That's the Mideast quicksand, which is why it is so important to
know how you're going to get out before you get sucked in.
Dick Cheney's dark idea
that a show of brutal force would scare off terrorists has ended up creating
Tonight will be a
stomach-churning moment for Mr. Bush, and he must be puzzling over how he got
snarled in this nightmare, with Old Europe making him beg, North Korea making
him wince, the deficit making him cringe, the lost manufacturing jobs making him
gulp; with the hawks caving in to the U.N. and to old Saddam Baath army members
who want to rebuild a security force; with Representative David Obey demanding
the unilateral heads of Rummy and Wolfie, so that "Uncle Sam doesn't become
Uncle Sucker"; with the F.B.I. warning that more Islamic terrorists who
know how to fly planes may be burrowing into our neighborhoods.
Does Mr. Bush ever wonder
if the neocons duped him and hijacked his foreign policy? Some Middle East
experts think some of the neocons painted a rosy picture for the president of
Arab states blossoming with democracy when they really knew this could not be
accomplished so easily; they may have cynically suspected that it was far more
likely that the Middle East would fall into chaos and end up back in its
pre-Ottoman Empire state, Balkanized into a tapestry of rival fiefs based on
tribal and ethnic identities, with no central government so busy fighting
each other that they would be no threat to us, or Israel.
The administration is
worried now about Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the face of roiling radicalism.
Some veterans of Bush 41
think that the neocons packaged their "inverted Trotskyism," as the
writer John Judis dubbed their rabid desire to export their "idealistic
concept of internationalism," so that it appealed to Bush 43's born-again
sense of divine mission and to the desire of Mr. Bush, Rummy and Mr. Cheney to
achieve immortality by transforming the Middle East and the military.
These realpolitik veterans
of Bush 41 say that Bush pθre, an old-school internationalist who ceaselessly
tried to charm allies as U.N. ambassador and in the White House, "agonized"
over the bullying approach his son's administration used at the U.N. and around
Some of the father's old
circle are thinking about forming a Republican group that would speak out
against the neocons. "What's happening in Iraq is puzzling," said one
Bush 41 official. "The president ran on no-nation-building. Now we're in
this drifting, aimless empire that is not helping the road map to peace."
W. has always presented
himself as the heir of Reagan, and dissed his father's presidency, using it as a
template of what not to do.
But as he tries to dig
himself out tonight, he may wish he had emulated the old man, at least when it
comes to slicing the deficit and playing nice with the allies.
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