Twenty-four years ago this month, I got a call from Paul Weyrich, the fabled conservative leader. George H. W. Bush, had just nominated Senator John Tower to be Secretary of Defense, and Paul was going to testify against him. “Chris, come over to the hearings tomorrow, will you?” Paul asked. “I’m going to need some moral support.”
So I watched as Paul told the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the world, that “over the course of many years, I have encountered the nominee in a condition lacking sobriety as well as with women to whom he was not married.” Small potatoes? Hardly. Over the following month, Tower came to realize that his nomination was in serious trouble. He even promised to swear off drinking altogether, but it didn’t help: his nomination failed.
Today, a new nominee for Defense has encountered a different kind of flak. Ah, he is an “appeaser,” a “peacenik,” and an “anti-Semite.” This time around, the charges come not from an acknowledged conservative leader, but from a familiar Beltway gaggle of retreads, convicted liars, and high-end con men. Their pompous pirouettes ooze with a brazen brand of hypocrisy that recalls the campaign waged against Judge Robert Bork in 1987. Back then, Senator Edward Kennedy, the muck of Chappaquiddick still dripping from his shoes, lambasted President Reagan on the Senate floor for “reach[ing] into the muck of Watergate” in selecting the distinguished jurist.
The Rubble finds the occasion instructive not because Kennedy was a hypocrite – a common trait among the elected – but because he wore his aquatic crime not like a scarlet letter, but as a badge of honor. “Ted Kennedy had to weather the death of Mary Jo Kopechne,” the Boston Globe soothingly commiserated – but poor Teddy survived, so everyone else had to weather Ted – or else.
Hypocrisy is boring; but what should strike us as remarkable is the selective amnesia that seems to prevail when the public confronts truly critical issues these days. Apparently, some realities are so obvious yet so onerous that to address them directly would threaten what is left of the tattered, fragile fabric of the realm. The Hagel nomination raises two such issues.
Obama the Divider
“There is no friendship between ruler and subjects in a tyranny…
neither can there be justice”
Aristotle, Ethics, 1161a
The survival of civic harmony and the common good are not high on Obama’s agenda; for him, Republicans are not the competition, they’re the enemy. With the studied eye of a master jeweler, Obama has become an aggressive and deft divider, hammering away at the fissures in the GOP. He is a political home-wrecker, amusing himself by tweaking Republican family feuds. And the Hagel nomination has dredged up GOP divisions that have festered for years.
Take George W. Bush. The GOP has tried to stuff him down the Memory Hole since the 2008 primaries, when only Ron Paul would mention him at all (everyone else was “another Reagan”). In the 2012 campaign, even National Review, Bush’s one-time champion, quietly acknowledged that he was a “failure.” Well, Hagel’s nomination has resuscitated the haunting specter of the elusive Bush, so the usual suspects — a bunch of feeble but well-funded failures – are trying to rescue their sullied reputations by proxy.
Hagel, a Viet Nam veteran, is a critic of Bush’s War in Iraq. But today’s armchair generals, none of whom have ever seen combat, had goaded Bush on. The result? Today, Iraq is a Shiite tyranny immersed in violence and closely allied with Iran, while Iraq’s Christian population has either been martyred or exiled. This unwelcome “collateral damage” has apparently escaped the notice of the Christian Bush.
And Afghanistan? The Guardian reports that its “president,” Hamid Karzai, recently visited Obama and demanded “helicopters, heavy weapons and other advanced military equipment for Afghanistan’s army as well as warplanes for the Afghan air force…. Kabul has accused the US of fostering corruption by giving funding directly to warlords.”
Of course “Kabul” has. As everyone knows but cannot admit, Karzai wants the corruption all for himself, in the classic Afghan fashion. And why must the U.S. finance our puppet’s exit strategy? Because Karzai remembers Najibullah’s fate after the Soviet departure: when the Americans leave, he is toast.
And so are Republicans. Bush’s failures elected Obama, and Republicans now rail at Obama’s defiance of the Constitution and Congress: Executive Orders, death squads, kill lists, Drones and Predators, torture, ballooning government, exploding debt, a domestic police state, the destruction of civil liberties, patriotism as love of government – “and this, and so much more,” as Prufrock sighs.
But Republicans cannot bring themselves to admit that Obama has merely carried on Mr. Bush’s policies, with an even more flippant contempt for Congress and the Constitution, to be sure.
So the GOP careens onward. Given the ghosts of Bushes past, one marvels that candidate Romney would surround himself with Bush’s senior advisors. It just conjured up visions of more useless wars. No one mentions it, but the headline after the election might well have read, “Voters reject war with Iran, Syria, Russia, and China.”
Apart from Ron Paul, Hagel is the Republican most antithetical to George Bush. That’s why Obama picked him. And Hagel’s critics? They could care less about Hagel: eager to maintain their seat in the GOP Hot Tub, they are attacking Hagel to defend their legacy, and their incomes. Thus, anyone who tells the truth about Bush is to be scorned, read out of the party, and ruined. And the disasters they spawned? Forget it: they never, ever apologize.
Why We’re Broke
The second unmentionable reality, even Obama ignores. It’s money.
Hagel has called the defense budget “bloated.” In Washington, those are fighting words, and the wily bloaters have devised a simple subterfuge to preserve their plunder: after all, companies that supply the government’s defense and security agencies happen to be among the precious few remaining manufacturing industries in America. To avoid accountability, they have spread their subsidiaries among as many states and congressional districts as possible. The result is predictable: as soon as a wasteful Pentagon boondoggle is targeted, the supplier’s hometown congressional delegation erupts, blaming budget cutters for “destroying American jobs.”
One illustration must suffice. A lot of Americans know that Homeland Security has bought 500 million rounds of lethal hollow-point ammunition for domestic use, but few know that the Agency For International Development (AID) distributes 500 million condoms worldwide every year. AID is a left-wing outfit no matter who’s in the White House, and they play hardball. So a while back the agency quietly decided to outsource to China the production of the billions of condoms it distributes worldwide.
Why bother? Lo and behold, their sole supplier is located in Alabama, where AID’s proposal would close down a factory and eliminate 300 jobs. The humiliating result? Jeff Sessions, one of the most conservative, prolife members of the Senate, was forced publicly to beg AID to distribute only American-made condoms. Humiliated, the senator’s staffer whined, “What’s wrong with helping the American worker at the same time we are helping people around the world?”
That’s the racket. The beauty of it all is its simplicity: the government buys stuff – bombs, Predators, condoms — from American suppliers and sends them abroad to be destroyed in distant lands. Then – hey, it needs more stuff! The entire enterprise is designed to build, destroy, and replace, build, destroy, and replace – forever, paying for it all with our bottomless printing press. The resulting mountains of corporate cash are redistributed to the tamed politicians and the booming “nonprofit” think tanks where the “expert” lapdog losers dream up new threats, champion new wars, and lambaste new “appeasers” for a living – and a very good living at that.
If anyone things that Congress is going to change it, they’re wrong. It’s the closest thing to a perpetual motion machine in history.