Friday, January 21, 2005

The Inauguration Speech, the Iraq War, and the Future

With everybody (including the interested party) taking it as a given that George W Bush is no expert on speechifying, not to mention a clueless cowboy, I was surprised at the president's second inaugural speech, the video version of which I watched on my computer while blogging last night. Soon, I stopped typing as the background "noise" rose to (inaugural speech) heights that, frankly, have rarely attained during my lifetime…

With that in mind, Joseph Knippenberg of the Ashbrook center recommends this snippet from the Washington Post's presidential interview by Michael A. Fletcher and Jim VandeHei:

The Post: In Iraq, there's been a steady stream of surprises. We weren't welcomed as liberators, as Vice President Cheney had talked about. We haven't found the weapons of mass destruction as predicted. The postwar process hasn't gone as well as some had hoped. Why hasn't anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.

Listen, in times of war, things don't go exactly as planned. Some were saying there was no way that Saddam Hussein would be toppled as quickly as we toppled him. Some were saying there would be mass refugee flows and starvation, which didn't happen. [More good news from Iraq here.] My only point is, is that, on a complicated matter such as removing a dictator from power and trying to help achieve democracy, sometimes the unexpected will happen, both good and bad.

And the point is, there has to be a flexible strategy that will enable our commanders on the ground and our diplomats to be able to adjust strategy to meet the needs on the ground, all aiming at an eventual goal, which is a free and democratic Iraq, not in our image, in their image, according to their customs. See, we haven't been — we've been there — sovereignty was transferred in June of 2004. So this has been a sovereign nation in its new form for less than a year. I'm optimistic about it, and so are a lot of other people who were there in Iraq — optimistic about that, being optimistic about the emergence of a free government.

I'm also mindful that it takes a while for democracy to take hold. Witness our own history. We weren't — we certainly were not the perfect democracy and are yet the perfect democracy. Ours is a constitution that said every man — a system that said every man was equal, but in fact, every man wasn't equal for a long period of time in our history. The Articles of Confederation were a bumpy period of time. And my only point is, is that I am realistic about how quickly a society that has been dominated by a tyrant can become a democracy. And therefore, I am more patient than some, but also mindful that we've got to get the Iraqis up and running as quickly as possible, so they can defeat these terrorists.

Clueless, brainless, and no capacity for eloquence and thought. Right?

The Ashbrook center's Knippenberg also links to John Lewis Gaddis's Grand Strategy in the Second Term, and he recommends John Keegan's take on the Iraq war, its aftermath, and… some of its not-so-well-known antecedents…

Meanwhile, Robert Alt writes that

having sour grapes about elections is nothing new. I still recall the "Don’t blame me, I voted for Bush" bumper stickers that adorned cars following Clinton’s win. But Ms. Rothchild’s statement goes deeper. ["After spending 10 days in London with friends who were outspoken about their disdain for President Bush’s policies, Berns Rothchild came home wishing she had a way to show the world she didn’t vote for him. 'I sort of felt ashamed, and didn’t really want to be associated with being an American,' said Rothchild".]

The whole "ashamed to be associated with America" thing seems to correlate much more with the Left and losing. The mantra seems to be, either the Left wins, or we’re moving to France; or we’re ashamed to be Americans, who are, by the way, not nearly as smart or sophisticated as we are, or as Europeans are. These are the same people who travel with Canadian flags on their luggage. Oh, but don’t question our patriotism. We love America. Massachusetts is just swell. Vermont is a fine place. And we might even admit to being Americans again, just as soon as a Democrat who reflects our disdain for the heartland is in the White House again.

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