Sunday, May 30, 2004
From Whence The Polarization?
The President: Paying the Price . . .Unity is for people who don't have a ranch in Texas.
When presidents take big chances, they have two choices. They can take all the responsibility on themselves and hope that when things go well, they will reap allthe rewards. Or they can choose to draw in the opposition from the beginning and count on some help and a feeling of solidarity if things start to go wrong.
President Bush took his big chance in Iraq without buying himself an insurance policy. He could have patiently built a coalition of the many -- not only abroad, but also at home -- rather than slapping together a coalition of the few, including the not-entirely-willing. He could have made clear, as his father did a decade earlier, that a decision to go to war is so momentous that Congress should consider the matter under circumstances that would encourage genuine deliberation.
Legislators from both parties will tell you that the congressional debate over the 1991 Persian Gulf War was one of the most ennobling experiences of their political lives. You don't hear much of that this time around. That's because approval was shoved through Congress by a president only too happy to turn war into a campaign issue.
Instead of reaching out to doubters, Bush derided them. On the campaign trail in September 2002, he characterized Democratic members of Congress who wanted a strong mandate from the United Nations -- exactly what the administration is seeking now -- as evading responsibility. "It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States," he said, "you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States." Didn't his opponents think that defending the interests of the United States was exactly what they were doing? Bush continued: "If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, 'Vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.' "
No wonder the country is so polarized. Behind the president's plummeting poll numbers and public restlessness about the war is an emerging truth about the administration's way of doing business. Iraq was a preemptive war pursued by a president who governs by preemption.
There is one explanation for Bush's preemptory posture: He genuinely believed that the weapons were there and that the transition to democracy in Iraq would be much easier than it turned out to be.Not only was Mr. Bush wrong but he was HUGELY wrong.
So why, why, oh why, oh why, would anyone vote to put this man back in office for 4 more years?