Friday, January 25, 2008

Is This How The Bush White House Thinks Of Conservatives?

David Frum has a column in today's Times, in which he presents his versions of the three "types" of Conservatives - social, fiscal and foreign policy. His caricatures are a bit, well, self-serving, particularly the last (foreign policy):
Have you people gone crazy? Have you forgotten there’s a war on? And that we’re in real danger of losing? Don’t you have any sense of priorities?

You tax guys insisted on fighting this war on the cheap. So we didn’t expand the armed forces after 9/11 — and fought Iraq with half the troops the generals told us we’d need. You social conservatives are happy to talk about putting tariffs on Chinese toys. But the real issue is that the Chinese are underwriting Iranian energy development — and the North Korean weapons program. Can we do something about that, please?

If we’re going to fight terrorism, we need to get off oil. But that means accepting higher energy prices, including energy-tax increases, and you economic conservatives always reject those.

And is it too much to ask you social conservatives to support a presidential candidate with some kind of background in foreign affairs, maybe one who can find Pakistan on a map? Christian leadership is all very well, but this is no moment to turn the other cheek.
I know a lot of foreign policy conservatives who view military interventionism as anathematic to conservatism. Yet Frum wants to paint all foreign policy conservatives as sharing his set of values - favoring military adventurism and continued warfare until the "job" (however ill-defined) is "done" (whatever that means). He paints Reagan as an economic conservative ("less spending, lower taxes and no more of these weird social and foreign adventures"), apparently because he is ill-informed of Reagan's military adventures in such places as Grenada and Lebanon. To the extent that Reagan is a model for conservatism, the lessons would appear to be, "Don't pick a fight unless you know you're going to win", and, "If you misjudge the fight, cut your losses and get out." Arguably these lessons were learned by both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, with the latter lesson (cut your losses) being most evident in the withdrawal from Somalia. People like George W. Bush (and David Frum) are unable to wrap their minds around either lesson.

Frum supported a President who walked away from Clinton's approach to North Korea's nuclear weapons program because he thought it wasn't a good deal, and was contemptuous of diplomacy. Years later, the same President offered North Korea a similar deal. Frum supported a President who ignored the generals and wanted to fight the Iraq war "on the cheap". Now he is suggesting that it was a mistake, but Frum omits mention of his own historic support of that mistake. As for higher energy prices, we already have those. Frum doesn't appear to notice that our higher energy prices are lining the pockets of the leaders of various totalitarian states. He simply assumes that adding a new tax on top of those higher prices will somehow lead to energy independence. He doesn't explain why we can deficit spend our way through a poorly planned war, with no end date in sight, but have to apply paygo to any program for energy independence.

And he saves the best for last. He snickers at the religious right for backing Huckabee, the candidate who thought that Afghanistan was on Pakistan's eastern border. Here's the candidate Frum backed in the 2000 election:
"Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?" Hiller asked, inquiring about Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, who seized control of the country October 12.

"Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?" asked Bush.
If given a map, I don't think Bush would have done very well in trying to attach names to any of the countries in South Asia, save possibly for India.

Perhaps Frum should consider his own role in marginalizing the class of foreign policy conservatives who eschew notions of reinventing foreign nations as democracies. Perhaps Frum should take a look at his own works in kicking at the social conservative leg of his wobbly stool, or note how he forgot to attach a "paleo-conservative" leg, and ask himself, is he truly more informed or more intelligent than the voters he ridicules?

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