It’s a positive sign when conservative commentators rush to defend President Bush from being defiled by the neoconservative label. The tag, thankfully, is becoming a pejorative. They will, however, have to pry Mr. Bush from the loving arms of the self-proclaimed “godfather” of neocons himself.
Irving Kristol, who emerged to “sex-up” the already flashy neoconservative “persuasion” in a Weekly Standard article, gave Mr. Bush the neocon seal of approval. The author of “Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea,” credits the “current president and his administration” with reviving the faith. Under Mr. Bush it “began enjoying a second life,” says Kristol.
Well, the “godfather” has spoken. And you may not want to argue with Kristol. Neoconservatives have ways and means of making you see The Truth: “The historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism,” he writes, is “to convert” American conservatives “against their respective wills” into statists and imperialists. As you’d expect, Kristol doesn’t quite admit to the program of statism at home and imperialism abroad, but by the time he is through counting the ways of neoconservatism, the writing is on the wall. Or as Prof. Paul Gottfried, author of “The Conservative Movement,” explained: “Their belief in the welfare state has been a permanent aspect of their ideology,” as has their affinity for a global democratic revolution.
Bush’s domestic and foreign policy bear the birthmarks – nay, the pockmarks – of neoconservatism. It will not do for his defenders to say that if not for the trauma of Sept. 11, Bush would not have grown so abusive. Crisis need not result in conquest. (Besides, there is evidence that Bush came to power with a plan to remove Saddam.)
Where does it say that defending the homeland must translate into bringing about “the triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond,” as the president said in his latest Address to the Nation? Sep. 11 could have just as well resulted in a circling of the wagons at home. But such prudence would have contravened the handbook of neoconservatism.
Kristol the elder insists that the neoconservative “persuasion” is in the “American grain.” This is baffling considering that the main intellectual behind the movement was a German emigre by the name of Leo Strauss. Moreover, neoconservatism has its origins “among disillusioned liberal intellectuals in the 1970s,” many of whom were ex-Trotskyites. Liberalism, to say nothing of Trotskyism and its ongoing revolution, are decidedly un-American.
Indeed, while neoconservatives claim – and even believe – they are making “the very idea of political conservatism more acceptable to a majority of American voters,” their impetus consists in marketing a bastardized idea of American conservatism. Where they haven’t already converted people to liberal multiculturalism, pluralism and carefully crafted globalism, their strategy has been to alienate the natural Republican core constituency in favor of courting powerful, well-heeled minorities.
Bush’s “triumph of triangulation” in the affirmative-action matter comes to mind. While pretending to oppose racial discrimination in colleges, he recommended the use of race-friendly recruiting methods, thus appeasing the “civil-rights” industry. The president’s silence on immigration reform and his rumored impending amnesty for illegals is another neocon notch in the Bush belt.
Other initiatives that have caused no mandated conservative anxiety in Bush are the signing into law of an unconstitutional campaign finance-reform bill, erecting various trade tariffs and barriers, and finding common ground with Ted Kennedy (shudder) on education. Bush’s welfare wantonness culminated in his “signature initiative” – a prescription-drug benefit that will, according to the Heritage Foundation’s William Beach, add trillions to the Medicare shortfall.
But from the neoconservative “godfather,” Bush can expect nothing but praise: “Neocons do not feel that kind of alarm or anxiety about the growth of the state in the past century, seeing it as natural, indeed inevitable.”
An offshoot of this neoconservative article of faith, reveals Kristol, is a lack of aversion to budget deficits. A match again! Bush continues to evince no compunction about taking the nation from black to red. To use Congressman Ron Paul’s analogy, the president continues to write himself endless billion-dollar loans using American labor as collateral.
But the real bailiwick of the neoconservative is to mask a contempt for the Constitution and an unprecedented expansion of government at home and abroad with a “great cause.” (This is another catchphrase culled from the latest presidential address). Kristol is particularly chilling when he explains that a large nation like the U.S. has an ideological identity to live up to. Tellingly, he juxtaposes “the United States of today” with “the Soviet Union of yesteryear.” This, presumably, serves to hammer home the importance of ideological interests to powerful nations. (“Trotsky’s ghost is still wandering the White House …”)
We are, of course, aware of what happened to millions of people when the Soviets implemented their ideology – that is what can happen when governments are allowed to put ideology into operation. It’s why American government has the purpose of upholding the rights of citizens to peacefully pursue their ideals, while remaining powerless to do the same.
Still, Bush promised to “do what is necessary … spend what is necessary” in what is shaping up as some sort of neoconservative Manifest Destiny. The Constitution he junked, one country (Iraq) he leveled and another (the U.S.) he is driving to the economic precipice. All this in the name of “ideas” – freedom, democracy, nation-building – Mr. Bush has no authority to “promote” and with blood and treasure he has no right to commit.
As Kristol said, “our current president and his administration turn out to be quite at home in this new political environment.”