Conservative Confronts Reality

Conservative Rod Dreher had a recent commentary on All Things Considered which shows that conservative propaganda sometimes failes when confronted by reality. Glenn Greenwald discusses this and has portions of the text. Greenwald summarizes the beginning of the commentary:

Dreher, 40, recounts that his “first real political memory” was the 1979 failed rescue effort of the U.S. hostages in Iran. He says he “hated” Jimmy Carter for “shaming America before our enemies with weakness and incompetence.” When Reagan was elected, he believed “America was saved.” Reagan was “strong and confident.” Democrats were “weak and depressed.”

In particular, Dreher recounts how much, during the 1980s, he “disliked hippies – the blame America first liberals who were so hung up on Vietnam, who surrendered to Communists back then just like they want to do now.” In short, Republicans were “winners.” Democrats were “defeatists.”

On 9/11, Dreher’s first thought was : “Thank God we have a Republican in the White House.”

If this was Dreher’s first thought, my reaction to Bush and a crisis was the opposite. I recall watching Thirteen Days, the movie about the Cuban missile crisis, when it came out in December 2000, just before Bush took office. I remember questioning whether, should the country face a real crisis on George Bush’s watch, whether he was up to to task. Both 9/11 and Katrina proved that Bush clearly was capable of responding rationally to such problems.

Since 9/11 we’ve all heard the Republican propaganda that Democrats were unpatriotic, and even that Democrats supported the terrorists to deflect from the actual evidence that Bush’s policies were undermining our national security. Greenwald quoted from Dreher’s commentary showing how Dreher came to realize that it was the Republicans who were wrong:

As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool’s errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.

But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.

In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.

The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government’s conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.

I turn 40 next month — middle aged at last — a time of discovering limits, finitude. I expected that. But what I did not expect was to see the limits of finitude of American power revealed so painfully.

I did not expect Vietnam.

As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative – that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word – that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot – that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn’t the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

Will my children, too small now to understand Iraq, take me seriously when I tell them one day what powerful men, whom their father once believed in, did to this country? Heavy thoughts for someone who is still a conservative despite it all. It was a long drive home.

Welcome to the reality-based community.

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