The neoconservatives at The Weekly Standard have finally decided it is time to begin spinning the inevitable blame for the second term of Bush’s administration. Stephen F. Hayes writes this week’s cover story on Condoleeza Rice:
In many ways, George W. Bush’s reluctant acceptance of bilateral talks with the North Koreans is the story of the latter half of his presidency.
Bush began his second term with the kind of bold, uncompromising vision that had characterized his first four years in office. The ultimate goal of U.S. policy, he proclaimed in his second inaugural address, is “ending tyranny in our world.” Bush said: “My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America’s resolve, and have found it firm.”
But that speech is better understood in retrospect as a coda to his first term than a bridge to the current one. In the second term, those who have chosen to test America’s resolve – the Iranians, the Syrians, the North Koreans – have often found it less than firm.
The problem with the Bush administration – Hayes maintains – is not that the Iraq war was a strategic blunder; or that their goals were too vague and too grand; or that the Bush administration committed tactical errors that alienated our friends and united our enemies; or that the administration deliberately deceived the American people; or even that it compromised basic American values in a kind of preemptive surrender that was summarized by Cheney’s “One Percent Doctrine”. These were not the problems of the administration, but the glories.
Instead, Bush’s problems began in the second term as Condoleeza Rice took over the State Department when she persuaded him to try more pragmatic courses of action. The problem wasn’t that Bush was too stubborn or too aggressive, but that he wasn’t stubborn or aggressive enough.