I've been looking at the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and I've come to a disturbing conclusion: maybe we've all been too hard on President Bush.
No, I haven't lost my mind. Mr. Bush has degraded our government and undermined the rule of law; he has led us into strategic disaster and moral squalor.
But the leading contenders for the Republican nomination have given us little reason to believe they would behave differently. Why should they? The principles Mr. Bush has betrayed are principles today's G.O.P., dominated by movement conservatives, no longer honors. In fact, rank-and-file Republicans continue to approve strongly of Mr. Bush's policies - and the more un-American the policy, the more they support it.
Now, Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney may have done a few things other Republicans wouldn't. Their initial domestic surveillance program was apparently so lawless and unconstitutional that even John Ashcroft, approached on his sickbed, refused to go along. For the most part, however, Mr. Bush has done just what his party wants and expects.
It's counterintuitive as hell--at least counter to my intuition and that of some 68% of Americans--but all the evidence so far strongly suggests that Krugman's right: You can't watch the casting call for "Grumpy Old Men 3" that has been the Republican presidential debates without realizing that the GOP has apparently learned nothing (at least nothing relevant) from the Bush administration debacle. The only distinction they're interested in drawing between one another is who is more stay-the-course-y than thou:
You want to stay in Iraq another 2 years? Well, I want to stay in Iraq another twenty years!
You'd arrest anyone suspicious without a warrant? Well, I'd arrest anyone I felt like without a warrant!
You'd waterboard terrorist suspects? Well, I'd unscrew their heads and crap down their necks!
You'd have double the Guantanamos? Well, I'd have double secret Guantanmos!
And so on.
What some commentators have called "the Daddy Party" is quickly turning into "the Ward Cleaver on Meth Party:" violent, impulsive, and irresponsible.
You can say what you want about movement conservatives when it comes to actually governing--and most people would want to say they're simply awful at it--but at least they've been damned good at campaigning. But at this rate, Edwards and Obama might as well start taking measurements for the Oval Office drapes (Hillary already has them tucked away in her hope chest).
Krugman's essay is on the Readings list on the sidebar.