Joe Conason's Journal

Apparently, conservatives think the White House was justified in lying about the motives for war.

By Salon Staff
Published July 28, 2003 8:55PM (EDT)

Dumber dumbing down
The dumbing down of American conservatism -- a phenomenon observed everywhere from cable television to the College Republicans -- accelerated slightly this morning thanks to the Wall Street Journal's online edition, which features an article by engineer and blogger Steven Den Beste. Den Beste's contribution to the debate over Iraq is a rah-rah rant overflowing with banality ("Mistakes will get made, and there will be problems"), clichés ("The Democrats are running around like chickens with their heads cut off") and chest-thumping idiocy ("If an American city gets nuked by a terrorist, things are going to get extremely ugly").

But perhaps editors Paul Gigot and James Taranto deserve credit for inadvertently allowing Den Beste to blurt out what he and other conservatives apparently think about the misleading messages that fomented war: The president and his aides lied from the very beginning, because they couldn't win by telling the truth.

As Den Beste puts it: "We are bringing reform to Iraq out of narrow self-interest. We have to foster reform in the Arab/Muslim world because it's the only real way in the long run to make them stop trying to kill us. So why did George W. Bush and Tony Blair, in making the case for war, put so much emphasis on U.N. resolutions and weapons of mass destruction? Honesty and plain speaking are not virtues for politicians and diplomats. If either Mr. Bush or Mr. Blair had said what I did, it would have hit the fan big-time. Making clear a year ago that this was our true agenda would have virtually guaranteed that it would fail."

More sophisticated versions of this excuse are becoming familiar on the right, where everyone is seeking a plausible rationalization for appallingly poor policymaking. In the meantime, the White House still has much to conceal, as honest Republicans like Richard Lugar have noticed. The Indiana senator, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, complained to NPR that the administration isn't being wholly truthful about the price of the Iraq occupation. They know it will cost tens of billions, he told National Public Radio. "But they do not wish to discuss that," Lugar added. What would happen if the brilliant Bush foreign policy team told us how much their adventure will cost? Why, someone might demand that Bush permit the return of the U.N. inspectors so that our former allies would be more willing to help police and rebuild that ruined nation.
[4:00 p.m. PDT, July 28, 2003]

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