Sunday, June 26, 2005

Beinart's Bizarro Bush: "Me Sorry About Iraq!"

One of the problems with "liberal hawks" like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart is that, in an apparent effort to appear wisely statesmanlike and above the fray, they insist on seeing equivalence between the Bush administration and its critics. In their columns about Iraq, they strike a tone of "Both sides need to be more reasonable and join forces to work out a solution." (Other writers make similar assertions about Social Security.)

But when one of the "sides" controls all three branches of government, arrogantly claims a "mandate" and "political capital" even where it has none, prides itself on its unwillingness to compromise, uses bullying and mock outrage to intimidate the media, and alters legislative protocols to strip the minority of its traditional rights, it's absurd to treat the two sides as equivalent and call on both to make concessions.

The flawed premise Friedman and Beinart share pushes them into positions that are untenable and sometimes frankly laughable. Friedman, for example, has repeatedly taken the stance that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, so long as the Bush administration did it in a prudent, far-sighted way, with respect for global opinion, full involvement of our allies, careful planning for the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq, and simultaneous commitment to an aggressive program of energy independence--none of which the Bush administration has ever indicated the slightest interest in doing.

Friedman has ended up looking like someone who gave his car keys to a falling-down drunk and then, after the inevitable crackup, offered the excuse, "Well, I told him to drive responsibly."

Now in the Washington Post, Beinart begins a column with the usual assertion of equivalence, saying, "President Bush and Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California deserve each other." Woolsey favors immediate withdrawal from Iraq, a position Beinart calls "breathtakingly irresponsible."

It's probably true that getting out now and allowing Iraq (and perhaps the broader region) to degenerate into full-blown civil war would be a big mistake--which is why most mainstream Democrats haven't so far embraced Woolsey's position. And what does Beinart expect from Bush in return for this concession? That Bush withdraw the nomination of John Bolton, fire Donald Rumsfeld, appoint people like Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn to key policy positions, and begin addressing the situation in Iraq with "humility." (No kidding, Beinart actually suggests all these steps in his column.)

This is a genuine possibility only in the Bizarro world of the Superman comic books, where up is down, black is white, and the Bush administration is ready to sacrifice short-term political advantage for the long-term good of the nation. I can just see Bizarro Bush working on the announcement now: "Hmm, me can use some good advice on this speech about Iraq. Karl Rove, get Bizarro Jimmy Carter on phone!"

In the real world, my suggestion to Peter Beinart is: Get "the other side" to agree to the concessions you propose, and then call the Democrats to the table. Meantime, I'm not going to hold my breath.
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