By Robert Silvey
Sam’s wonderfully comprehensive list of the Bush administration’s scandals and disasters makes one wonder where this crew got their ideas. The mind boggles. How could the Republicans be so wretched at governing? Governing was something they wanted to do, wasn’t it? It’s not easy to understand their motivating principles.
We could simply dismiss them all as corrupt thieves, of course, but that’s unfair to the idealistic if misguided neocons who flocked to Bush’s side. They had principles, didn’t they? They were not in it merely for the main chance.
Brad DeLong, the Berkeley economist whose protean blog is now titled Grasping Reality with Both Hands, may have uncovered the answer. Bush learned everything he knows about neoconservatism from Irving Kristol (the gnome in the photo) and Norman Podhoretzâ€”though he usually learned it indirectly (another count to add to Paul Wolfowitz’s lengthy charge sheet).
In an essay on the deterioration of the Economist, DeLong describes, in his own viciously accurate words, the founding principles of American neoconservatism:
The real neoconservatives formed into a group at the end of the 1970s around four planks:
- That the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War, which the west needed to heat up and wage it with harsher methods–nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, and death squads rather than limp-wristed Carter-Ford focus on international economic prosperity, democratization, and human rights.
- That Likud should be encouraged to drive Palestinians into their existing homeland of Jordan as soon as practicable.
- That taxes should be cut, (military) spending raised, and budgets balanced–and that anyone who pointed out that this didn’t add up needed to be shouted down.
- That African-Americans got too easy a ride in modern America, and needed to be made poorer and less powerful.
That’s the sourceâ€”one might even say the fountainheadâ€”of all the Bush administration’s policies and practices. Everything else is just corollaries and footnotes. Oh, yes, and the occasional spate of incompetence.