While President Bush appears serenely confident
about Iraq, the same cannot be said of the War Party propagandists who were
plotting this conflict when Dubya was still a rookie governor of Texas.
William Kristol of The Weekly Standard now demands the firing of
Donald Rumsfeld. William F. Buckley, whose National Review branded the
antiwar Right "unpatriotic conservatives" who "hate" America, now calls upon
Bush for an "acknowledgement of defeat."
Richard Perle says the administration "got the war right and the aftermath
wrong." Self-described "humiliated pundit" Andrew Sullivan confesses to "a sense
of shame and sorrow." Michael Ledeen says of Bush's war, "Wrong war, wrong time,
wrong way, wrong place."
Frank ("The End of History") Fukuyama concedes that "Iraq has now replaced
Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadists,
with plenty of American targets to shoot at."
But it is a March 20 essay in The Wall Street Journal that suggests
the neocons may be coming unhinged. Written by Weekly Standard Executive
Editor Fred Barnes, the piece urges Bush to begin the "rejuvenation of his presidency
by shocking the media and political community with a sweeping overhaul of his
The purge Barnes recommends would have caused Stalin to recoil.
Barnes calls on Bush to fire press secretary Scott McClellan, chief of
staff Andy Card, political adviser Karl Rove, National Security Adviser Stephen
Hadley, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Treasury Secretary John Snow – and
Vice President Richard Cheney.
"The trickiest issue is how to handle Karl Rove," says Barnes.
I don't think so, Fred. I think "the trickiest issue" will be how to handle
Dick and Lynne when they are told by Dubya they must give up a constitutional
office to which Cheney was elected by the nation, vacate the vice presidential
mansion and turn the keys over to Condi Rice.
That's right, Barnes urges Bush to appoint Condi vice president and "anoint"
her as "presidential successor."
Who would replace Condi at State? Pro-war liberal Joe Lieberman.
I should like to be in earshot when Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, hears that he has been passed over for secretary
of state by the junior Democratic senator from Connecticut.
"Mr. Cheney would probably be happy to step down and return to Wyoming,"
Barnes assures us.
Is he sure? Why would Cheney not regard any such attempt by Bush as a stab
in the back by a friend to whom he has given years of service? For if Cheney
is forced to quit his office, he goes down in history as a failed vice president
and, along with Rumsfeld, the Bush-designated scapegoats of the Iraq war.
What, other than poor poll ratings, would be the rationale for removing
Cheney, who is infinitely more qualified than Condi Rice by philosophy, experience
and knowledge to take over the presidency?
All of Cheney's problems are tied to Iraq. But so are Bush and Condi tied
to Iraq. Her failure at the National Security Council to screen the intelligence
and ensure that Defense did due diligence for the occupation produced today's
crisis. And what has Condi's crusade for democracy produced, other than historic
gains for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas on the West Bank, Hezbollah
in Lebanon, and Moqtada al-Sadr and the Shia clerics in Iraq?
Exactly what qualifies her to be president?
Well, says Barnes, it would be a "spectacular move."
I'll say. Putting Rice directly in the line of succession to the Oval Office
would detonate an explosion far more ruinous to Bush than the Dubai ports deal.
It would instantly jump-start the presidential campaign of 2008. Conservatives
who consider Condi weak on life and a pro-affirmative-action social liberal
would start carving her up before she reached the Senate hearing room.
Did not the firestorm over the Dubai deal wake these Beltway dreamers up?
Would John McCain stand aside for Rice? Would George Allen? Would the evangelical
Christians? All would move to block her. And no one would worry about any damage
this would do to a George Bush who was so arrogant as to try to impose, as his
choice for the 2008 nominee of the GOP, another ex-staffer and spinster like
That Bush is in trouble is undeniable. But his people are not Bush's problem.
His policies are. It is these policies, not his advisers, that have given us
huge deficits and a no-win war that is bleeding our country.
If Bush should follow Barnes' advice and throw his most loyal people to
the wolves as a P.R. stunt, he will have earned their lasting contempt, and
that of the country. For all will know he was scapegoating them for his own
failures – failures that come of having listened to the neocons who are even
now slipping out of camp, rehearsing alibis and blaming Bush for not heeding
their brilliant advice.
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