Bush Era's Last Legs: Will Anything Change When He Goes?
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The political calendar indicates that in one more year â€“ on Jan. 20, 2009 â€“ the presidency of George W. Bush will come to an end. However, the worst consequences of his disastrous reign, including the Iraq War, may be nowhere near ending.
Todayâ€™s presidential frontrunners, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, were early prominent supporters of the Iraq War and appear to have suffered little political damage for lining up behind Bush in 2002 when he was at the peak of his power.
For his part, McCain â€“ who campaigns with neoconservative independent Sen. Joe Lieberman â€“ has no plan to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq, indeed talks about keeping U.S. troops there for centuries. Clinton, who was a late convert to an anti-war position, now vows to â€œstart withdrawingâ€ U.S. troops by early spring 2009.
So, it seems a sure bet that a McCain presidency would continue Bushâ€™s Iraq policies indefinitely. And it looks like a gamble whether Clinton would press ahead with her â€œhopeâ€ of bringing â€œ nearly all the troops out by the end ofâ€ 2009 â€“ or revert to the neocon-lite position that she embraced from 2002 until the start of the Democratic campaign in 2007.
Might Hillary Clinton be to George W. Bush on Iraq what Richard Nixon was to Lyndon Johnson on Vietnam, a President who continued a war for years while gradually moving to wind it down?
Ironically, the politician taking the most heat on the Iraq War today is Barack Obama, who opposed the war resolution in 2002. In recent days, he has come under harsh criticism from former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Clinton for not consistently joining with the staunchest war opponents in the Senate.
Bill Clinton has called Obamaâ€™s anti-war position a â€œfairy tale,â€ and Sen. Clinton, who helped make the Iraq War possible, has attacked Obama for not immediately supporting a cutoff of funds for the war when he entered the Senate in 2005, even though that was a position he shared with Clinton.
Amazingly, it looks like â€“ if any politician is going to be held accountable on the Iraq War â€“ it may be Obama, who was an early and vocal opponent.
Think Tank Consensus
Meanwhile, in the U.S. news media and in influential Washington think tanks, Iraq War supporters are consolidating their positions and â€“ just like in 2002-03 â€“ are baiting Iraq War critics as â€œdefeatistsâ€ who wonâ€™t admit the â€œrealityâ€ of Bushâ€™s successes, particularly the modest gains of the troop â€œsurge.â€
At the New York Times, apparently to give himself protection from right-wing pressure groups, publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. recruited prominent neoconservative writer William Kristol as a new op-ed columnist. In one of his first columns, Kristol accused Iraq War critics of wanting to â€œsnatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.â€ [ NYT, Jan. 14, 2008]
Not to be outdone, another Times columnist, Roger Cohen, penned an op-ed praising McCain for his wisdom in supporting the surge. In a flashback to the intolerant mood of 2002, Cohen accused American liberals of â€œhypocrisyâ€ for not backing the invasion of Iraq to oust the dictator, Saddam Hussein.
â€œI still believe Iraqâ€™s freedom outweighs [the warâ€™s] terrible price,â€ Cohen wrote. â€œSo does McCain.â€ [ NYT, Jan. 17, 2008]
(The New York Timesâ€™ other columnists who were big supporters of the Iraq War include David Brooks and Thomas Friedman. Meanwhile, the Washington Postâ€™s editorial pages have been long dominated by war enthusiasts, such as editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, Charles Krauthammer and David Ignatius.)