It is no secret that in his political persona, George W. Bush identifies more with Ronald Reagan than with the elder President Bush. This is undoubtedly more a matter of style than substance, but most "conservative" Republicans may be counted on to miss the distinction.
There is, after all, much less difference between Bush ’41 and Bush ’43 than meets the eye. The current president shows not his father’s reverence for the United Nations and, indeed, seems to encourage his subordinates to vent their spleen against the world body. The last GOP National Convention featured so much anti-UN rhetoric, one might have thought the organization had been moved to Paris and is now run by French "surrender monkeys," no?
Be not deceived. Babylon on the Hudson is not mocked, nor seriously disparaged by this administration. Boy George and his "Culture of Death" Club may not have gotten the authorization they wanted for the "Georgie War" in the Persian Gulf, but failing that, they wound up with what would be, politically, the best of both worlds. They got to thumb our national nose at the Security Council, while going to war to enforce UN resolutions.
The lofty goal of the first President Bush was a "new world order" in which the United Nations would function "as its founders intended." (Bush had come to redeem Alger Hiss, not to bury him.) It would be a world more to the liking of the Western democracies, but one that would, nonetheless, reflect the struggling hopes and noblest aspirations of all mankind. Imagine a coalition of nations, led by the world’s lone super power, joining forces to invade and conquer one country in the Third World, a nation roughly the size of California, to enforce United Nations resolutions on a regime that had just recaptured a lost colony. Think of the precedent that would set!
Conservatives liked the war, but not the one-world rhetoric. When the younger Bush was seeking the presidency in 1999, National Review carried an article quoting the Texas governor saying he was not in favor of "a new world anything." It was reassuring music to right wing ears, but it was a bewitching melody of deception. War drums would follow.
In his campaign for the White House in 2000, Bush said he wanted America to follow a "more humble" role in the world. Whether intended or not, this was seen in marked contrast to the statement by Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and others that America had become the world’s "indispensable nation." If Bush believed the humble-pie rhetoric then, he abandoned it soon after. Some say "everything changed on 9-11." Certainly the administration’s view of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein changed, though there was, by Bush’s own admission, never any evidence linking the Baghdad dictator to the 9-11 attacks.
In the movie most conservatives will never see, Fahrenheit 911, Secretary of State Colin Powell is shown speaking at a press conference in February, 2001. Referring to Saddam Hussein, Powell said, "He poses not a threat in terms of weapons of mass destruction." Another clip from about the same time showed National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice making a similar assessment of Iraq’s conventional forces. A year and a half later, Powell was at the United Nations making the case that Iraq was virtually running over with weapons of mass destruction. And Rice was conjuring up images of a mushroom-shaped cloud to scare us into war.
Yet President George W. Bush had the temerity, the gall, the almost unforgivable chutzpah to use his Veteran’s Day speech this year to accuse the critics of his half-baked intelligence and shifting rationale for this war (from "regime change" to WMD and back to regime change and onto making the Middle East democratic and, of course, peaceful) of "rewriting history."
The younger Bush, less polished, less Ivy League in appearance and mannerisms than his diffident dad, never quite captured Ronald Reagan’s country and western, plain-folks appeal, though he has come close. But the lone entrée at Chez George is still "New World Order Stew," whether served by Republican or Democratic waiters.
And it is still poisonous to a free people.
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.