Well, enough of the post-election respite from polemical nattering...
The DiIulio Tempest
John DiIulio, a former Bush staff aide and speechwriter who worked on faith-based initiatives, has vented his frustrations in a classic Washington "confessional" published by Esquire magazine. His letter was reproduced by the Drudge Report. DiIulio spares no effort in praising Bush's sincerity about "compassionate conservatism" but laments what he sees as Bush's weak side: a disregard for policy substance that allows decisions to be driven by short-term political expediency, an attitude accentuated by the ascendancy of Karl Rove in the White House West Wing. DiIulio (supposedly*) wrote,
This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis -- staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible.
Ouch! This piece of "tattling" came out less than two years after "W"'s inauguration, much earlier in the game than the book-length tell-alls written by Clinton lieutenants George Stephanopolous and Robert Reich. * One should note that DiIulio has since disclaimed some of the quoted material. In any case, I take all such characterizations -- especially such cliche-laden ones -- with a grain of salt. Idealists who come to Washington eager to change the world often become embittered when their cohorts don't see things eye to eye. DiIulio's strange praise of Clinton's vaunted expert-run White House suggests that he is one of those whiz-kid policy wonks who was simply not up to the task of bureaucratic politics. University of Chicago scholar Daniel Drezner contrasts DiIulio's setbacks with Condi Rice, who has fared much better in the Bush White House, thanks to her experience in the "snake pit" world of academic administration: "I suspect the real difference between those political scientists that succeed in government and those that fail is that the successes know the limits of their trade." Hooray for modesty!
Given that he was the man who ridiculed "nation-building" ventures during the 2000 campaign, the possibility that U.S. troops may police Baghdad for years to come is ironic to say the least. As Alan Wolfe wrote in the Boston Globe Online, however, "No serious empire-builder would ever cut taxes as recklessly as President Bush has." Interesting point; so who is going to pay for the war and subsequent occupation? The United States "passed the hat" and prevailed upon Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan, and other countries to help fund Desert Storm in 1991, but that option is out the window this time. Does that mean Bush is bluffing, or is he going to put this war on the national "Visa card"?
Whatever Bush's shortcomings, he has far surpassed the expectations most people had of him when he was elected, and this has annoyed leftists to no end. Perhaps that is why, in recent weeks, I have come across more and more examples of virulently malicious attacks against the President on various leftist Web sites. Some of them (links to which I decline to post) are far worse than the tasteless "push Granny down the stairs" Web cartoon on the Democratic National Committee Web site. I can't remember conservatives ever stooping so low in denouncing Clinton, but if anyone can point to correspondingly below-the-belt Web sites on the conservative side, I'll be glad to take a look. For now, all I can say is that a dark, sneering spirit seems to have taken hold of the Left since the 2000 election, and that bodes very ill for our country in these perilous times when unity and serious dialogue are so important.
Two weeks ago Senator Tom Daschle held a strange press conference in which he defended the Democrats' achievements while in control of the Senate and blasted the Bush administration for, of all things, obstructionism! Orwell would be proud. You never know what this plain-spoken, double-talking guy really means, but in this particular episode he came across as crassly self-pitying. This was most evident when he blamed his party's woes on Rush Limbaugh, whom he accused of inciting listeners to commit acts of violence. This is the same crap Bill Clinton foisted on the public after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 -- the very day that marked his political comeback, in fact. Limbaugh's satirical tirades against the Left sometimes go too far for my tastes, but he is certainly NOT a flag-bearer for extremist elements. In a similar vein, Al Gore blamed his laughing-stock public image (and poor book sales) on nihilistic, narcissistic postmodernists. That came as quite a shock to me, since I thought those folks were his core constituency!
Nearly everyone was pleased by the Democrats' choice of Nancy Pelosi to be the new House Minority Leader, from conservatives licking their lips in anticipation of the 2004 elections to leftists who are convinced Bush is leading the country toward disaster. She is telegenic and generally speaks in respectful tones, but she got off to a rocky start on Meet the Press two weeks ago. Everybody has bad days now and then, but I was surprised by how inarticulate she sounded when Tim Russert asked her how she would balance the left and centrist wings of her party. She has one of the purest ADA voting records in all of Congress and indeed faces a huge challenge gaining the confidence of moderates.
Just before the November election there was a news report that Democratic candidate Pryor (who defeated incumbent Tim Hutchinson) had hired a Latina woman without proper documents. According to the Arkansas Times, the woman was persuaded by Pryor's in-laws to sign a false affadavit in order to hush up the scandal. Would it have mattered? Let's ask Zoe Baird!
POSTCRIPT: Diplomatic fallout from Election 2002
When I wrote on November 6 that I expected resistance in the U.N. Security Council to melt away soon as the result of the Republican victory, I was thinking maybe a week or two, but as things turned out, it took only two days. When the American people speak, the rest of the world listens!