The End of the Warrior Republicans

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This campaign
season, Republicans will tread new constitutional and political
ground. President Bush, though leader of the governing party, will
not be personally accountable to the electorate. The U.S. Constitution's
Twenty-Second Amendment bars Bush from another term. Only impeachment,
resignation, death or disability can remove him before his current
term ends in January, 2009.

There have
only been two constitutionally similar situations in American history,
1988 (Reagan) and 2000 (Clinton), both very different politically.
Ronald Reagan ended his second term broadly popular. In spite of
well-known personal difficulties, Bill Clinton remained popular
among Democrats.

Voters across
the political spectrum have turned against President Bush. In 2006,
Democrats and independents expressed that disapproval by voting
against Republicans at federal, state and local levels. Anti-Bush
Republicans and conservatives did so by staying home. Under English
or European constitutional practice the Bush administration would
have ended in 2006, earlier if opinion polls are to be believed.

New ground
calls for new rules, specifically concerning party loyalty. In my
view the Republican Party's 2008 candidates have the perfect right,
and would be well advised to repudiate President Bush. They should
also distance themselves from the cause of their party's current
woes — Bush administration-crafted foreign and domestic policies
collectively known as the “Global War on Terror.”

Internal GOP
politics might make it easier to just let the clock run out on the
current administration, then pretend Bush never existed or that
he came from another planet. Unfortunately, the voters know better.
President Bush won office by gaining support from Republicans everywhere,
including my home state (Washington). I was one of them. I phoned
for Bush in his local (Spokane, Washington) nomination contest against
John McCain.

It's time we
Republicans acknowledge our mistake. GOP leaders can learn it was
a mistake the easy way, from polls and other indicators of public
opinion, or they can learn it the hard way (again) from voter rejection.
In my Eastern Washington home, last year's GOP debacle crushed a
personally and professionally admirable U.S. Senate candidate, halved
the substantial first-term victory margin of my Republican Representative
and took down several local Republican officials.

True believers
in the Global War on Terror will say “The Muslims attacked us! What
else could President Bush do?” Nonsense! It is as silly to say Muslims
attacked America on 9/11 as saying Americans fought Christians
in 1775 and 1812 (British), and again in 1846 (Mexicans), 1861 (Confederates),
1898 (Spanish) and 1917 (Germans); or saying Shintoists attacked
America in 1941 (Japan); or Animists (American Indians) fought
American settlers and soldiers during the 19th Century.

It makes more
sense (though not much) to blame particular Islamic nations. That
would make Saudi Arabia a prime candidate for responsibility, as
home to 15 of the 19, 9/11 hijackers and their leader Osama bin
Laden. The other culprit nation was Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda
was closely affiliated with the Taliban government and 9/11 attack
plans were reportedly developed.

So Bush attacks
Afghanistan (some justification), mires us in a guerrilla war in
Iraq (no 9/11 involvement) and pounds the drum for war with Iran
(also no 9/11 involvement). He had many other options. My choice
would have been condemning the attacks as particularly vicious crimes,
then instructing law enforcement authorities to pursue the responsible
individuals and criminal organizations, notably Osama bin
Laden and al-Qaeda. U.S. agencies should have worked with counterparts
in other nations and international organizations. Supporting military
measures (if required) should have been conducted under international
sanction.

I first resisted
joining Democrats and liberals who obviously delighted in blaming
a Republican President for the anti-Muslim hysteria following 9/11.
I still hoped for conservative reform during the era of all-Republican
government begun by election of Bush in 2000. I also believed (and
still believe) the media and public, including many Democrats, bore
a share of responsibility for the seemingly endless national frenzy
over terrorism. I expressed those views in a local newspaper (Pacific
Northwest Inlander, February 20, 2003).

"In a
. . . democratic society leaders and followers share responsibility
for the bad as well as the good. . . . Politicians who pound the
war drums and bureaucrats who peddle multi-billion dollar "homeland
security" programs should be . . . accountable for the costs
and casualties as they inevitably roll in. So should we . . . [the
voting public] . . . [A]re you willing to . . . be accountable for
what lies at the end of the road we are traveling? I'm not."

My breaking
point came a few months later when Presidential political advisor
Karl Rove openly bragged about plans to run his boss as the “Warrior
President” in 2004. The breaking point for many other Americans
was the 2006 Military Commissions Act, an affront to civil liberties
(notably habeas corpus) proposed by Bush and approved by the GOP
controlled Congress. That law was cheered by (some) conservative
commentators who hoped it would help GOP candidates. Instead, voter
revulsion ended Republican Congressional control along with many
GOP political careers.

Power denies
some politicians the ability to deal with adversity. Hitler's 1939
invasion of Poland, which began World War II, also repudiated British
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy. The rules
of British parliamentary democracy demanded Chamberlain's resignation.
Yet he resisted until a delegation of his own Conservative Party
leaders threatened to march on his 10 Downing Street office. World
War II ended with an equally delusional Adolph Hitler plotting a
second German invasion of the USSR – as Russian tanks rolled into
Berlin.

Rebelliousness
is not a favored Republican trait. Realism suggests most Republican
candidates will conduct their 2008 campaigns under the banner of
an also failed and increasingly delusional leader. For those loyal
soldiers next year's task will be personal survival in the face
of an almost inevitable Democratic landslide.

Then what?
From my conservative perspective many grisly possibilities come
to mind. And one pleasant one. Another Republican wipe-out year
was 1964 — my first voting year. From the ashes of Barry Goldwater's
landslide defeat grew the thoughtful, cautious, skeptical-of-government
conservatism I grew up with and have worked for ever since.

This once young,
now old Goldwater conservative does not relish the onset of campaign
2008 or its likely outcome. However, good politics must be about
hope, not fear, anger or despair. My hope is departure of George
W. Bush and his rapidly shrinking cadre of "Warrior Republicans"
will signal my party's return to its earlier and wiser traditions.

November
8, 2007

Robert
L. Stokes [send him mail]
is a retired college professor who lives, and occasionally writes,
in Spokane Washington.

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