Dashed Hopes: Looking Back at Those Who Wanted to Give Bush Benefit of the Doubt


My email backlog is 10,732 — but I am finally whittling it down. I found in the mix an email sent to me by a friend on February 25, 2005 that said the following:

It seems that the atmospherics of Bush’s visit to Europe were good (except maybe with Putin) but that little substantive was achieved. It occurs to me that there is an opportunity here that may still be achievable.
We want a firmer line on Iran, no arms sales to China, and more help on Iraq. They want action on global warming and US participation in the International Criminal Court. Maybe a deal can be reached. Most US businesses accept that some restrictions on carbon emissions are inevitable. We don’t have to sign on to Kyoto fully to make a significant move in that direction. Bush could offer some movement on Kyoto and ICC in return for European action on Iran and China.
I think this is a winner for Bush, even though his constituencies might see it as both gains and losses. The reason is that movement conveys its own benefits–he is seen to be effective and moving forward–whereas stalemate always looks bad. Plus he can repair some damage with US domestic environmentalists and internationalists (perhaps he attaches low value to that–but the deal does not require it).
Various quid pro quos are also possible on Israel-Palestine and the WTO round, but each can be separated from the other and the above deal.

This thoughtful note from someone who wanted to be supportive of the President provides good retrospective context of how poorly things have gone this last half year.
On Iran, he U.S. and Europe have had an unsteady, dysfunctional approach that has been characterized more by mutual grimacing and contempt than coordination. To refresh yourself on one of the more bizarre performances by John Bolton before our allies, read this.
And quickly ticking through the list, Bush failed to support Blair on any reasonable steps towards a globally coordinated effort on carbon emissions. We have done no horse-trading with the Europeans on the International Criminal Court or any of Europe’s wish list items in return for help internationalizing the too-American face of our security and civil institution operations in Iraq.
America has missed many, many opportunities this past year. And the President’s selection of John Bolton as his administration’s choice to serve at the United Nations reflects one of many decisions that further alienate our allies and friends.
The White House is caught in a trap of its own making. It has not been truthful regarding who leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA identity. Instead, it is playing a cat-and-mouse game with the press, public, and Patrick Fitzgerald.
It is choking on the Bolton nomination and has given no indication of ending this bad business and instead nominating someone whom Americans can support at the U.N.
And it has a Supreme Court nomination to make while its radical religious fundamentalist wing tries to extort from Bush an ideological zealot for the court.
America’s prominence in global affairs has become more myth than real at this point. We still have assets, considerable ones — but Bush’s mishandling of “America’s purpose” in this early part of the 21st century have constrained our choices as a nation.
As soon as Bush is officially a lame duck, we clearly need John McCain and other moderates to take back the Republican Party. I know that this sounds naieve to many who think that it is impossible to turn back the power of religious fundamentalists in the party, but I disagree.
And in the Democratic Party, they still haven’t cleaned house. The party is still risk-averse, clinging to a 50%-plus-one attititude, which keeps it from appealing to the passions and hopes of those who want more from national leaders. And yes, I’ll add to the mantra — the Dems have been abysmally slow and ineffective in the manufacturing and production of “new ideas.” There have been some gains — but Dems need to unclog their arteries.
I really don’t care if the White House is held by a Republican or Democratic president if that president reflects the best interests of a broad cross section of the public and manages public interests and goals honorably and competently. But right now, both parties are deeply flawed and controlled by forces that inhibit the leadership Americans deserve from coming to the helm.
In my view, it seems easier to hijack and redirect the Democratic Party towards great purposes than the Republican establishment. And I worry that if John McCain, whom I very much like, got the Republican Party nomination, he’d have to swallow George Allen or Jeb Bush in the Vice Presidential slots. If he sent either of these two off to work on highway beautification, or inner-city crime problems, perhaps we could live with that.
But we can never again accept or tolerate a Vice President of Dick Cheney’s ilk.
Ok, enough of this — I could ramble on all day about my frustration with the corruption of our political order but have other things that need attention.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons