Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Mission Accomplished day.
I know it is absolutely verboten to go around mentioning the Past in mixed political company. I know it is shameful and wrong and strident, but today -- instead of a rundown of the Sunday Morning fire-at-the-freak-show-ruins of what we once called journalism, I'm going to set myself the task of doing it anyway but without mentioning the "F" word even once.
I can do it!
You see, long ago in The Time Before Trump, there were many prominent Serious Conservatives who worked in the very lucrative Public Opinion Formation business. And during this ideological prehistory, while Fox News and Hate Radio and Gingrichism was swallowing their Republican Party whole like an anaconda swallowing a hamster, they swung right on behind the Roger Ailes/Rush Limbaugh parade, singing nothing buy paeans of praise during the eight, agonizing years of the Failed Bush Administration.
Foreign Policy magazine (2014) picks up the story:
Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
These guys were wrong about every aspect of Iraq. Why do we still have to listen to them?
From 2001 until sometime around 2006, the United States followed the core neoconservative foreign-policy program. The disastrous results of this vast social science experiment could not be clearer. The neoconservative program cost the United States several trillion dollars and thousands dead and wounded American soldiers, and it sowed carnage and chaos in Iraq and elsewhere.
One would think that these devastating results would have discredited the neoconservatives forever, just as isolationists like Charles Lindbergh or Robert McCormick were discredited by World War II, and men like former Secretary of State Dean Rusk were largely marginalized after Vietnam. Even if the neoconservative architects of folly are undaunted by failure and continue to stick to their guns, one might expect a reasonably rational society would pay them scant attention.
Yet to the dismay of many commentators — including Andrew Bacevich, Juan Cole, Paul Waldman, Andrew Sullivan, Simon Jenkins, and James Fallows — neoconservative punditry is alive and well today. Casual viewers of CNN and other news channels are being treated to the vacuous analysis of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Bill Kristol....
But how (you ask) could these same discredited hacks have remained alive and employed during the Age of Obama when they so publicly and comprehensively shit the bed during the Age of Bush?
Foreign Policy magazine lists many cause. For example, it helps to be utterly shameless, which American Conservatives certainly are. Also, Team Evil always makes sure there is an almost incomprehensibly huge trough of money available to anyone who can string a few words together and who will work for their monstrous causes. And, of course, it helps enormously to have a broken and compliant media (I will helpfully emphasize the names of a few of the cardinal sinners.)
3. A Receptive and Sympathetic MediaNeoconservatives would have much less influence if mainstream media didn’t continue to pay attention to them. They could publish their own journals and appear on Fox News, but the big force multiplier is their continued prominence in places like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other outlets. Neocons continue to have frequent access to op-ed pages, and are commonly quoted by reporters on a range of foreign-policy issues.
This tendency is partly because some important members of the mainstream media are themselves neoconservatives or strongly sympathetic to its basic worldview. David Brooks of the New York Times, Charles Krauthammer and Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, and Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal are all card-carrying neoconservatives and were, of course, prominent voices in the original pro-war camp. The Times even hired [Bill] Kristol to write an op-ed column back in 2005 — after Iraq had already gone south — and he might still be doing that today if his columns hadn’t been so dull and sloppy.
But it’s not just the neoconservatives’ continued presence in the mainstream press.
Neoconservatives continue to exercise influence because the rest of the U.S. media is obsessed with "balance," and because lackadaisical reporters know they can always get a hawkish neoconservative quote to balance whatever they are being told by the Obama administration or by more dovish voices. As long as reporters think balance matters more than accuracy, neoconservatives will still find plenty of places to peddle their particular version of foreign-policy snake oil.
Iraq had indeed gone horribly, predictably tits-up by 2005. And by way of a quick history lesson in what the world was like just a few years ago, here is a snip of me from January 2006. which I assure you was not terribly different from what pretty much every other Liberal pariah with a keyboard was writing at that time:
...Dissent, we are warned, is treason. Dissent is anti-American. And riffling through the whole deck of dreck that the Rightards swallow as gospel (because, face it, if you’re a Republican in this day and age, you pretty much have to take off the shoes and footies to do the Big Math, don’thcha?) there is nothing more completely nauseating that Americans ranting that disagreeing with their government is…un-American.Well, ok, the fact that this uncut Stalinism comes from the team that bills itself the Party Of Small Gummint does make it a bit more perfectly perverse. But then again, since they are run by a cabal of some of the worst enemies of Christianity in American history who snipe at non-cultists from behind a pile of bibles and cash purloined from gullible old cancer patients so really, what can one expect?And the reason is very straightforward. As with any criminal enterprise, the one thing that cannot be allowed is confession and atonement; it pisses the other gangsters off.Simply put, Dubya thinks like every other drunk who ever lived. He thought that his failures and bullshit would never catch up with him. That his lies about nukes and terrorists, his “Brownie”-ization of the federal government, his spying on American citizens, torture…all of it and so very much more, that he never in his wildest fucking dreams ever though he would have to answer for.Whether propping his worthless self up and keeping his grandiose ego inflated on liquor or GOP snakehander superstition, he has never been anything but a punkass child who hid behind Daddy’s wallet and name, and our great modern tragedy has not been 9/11, but that our President has so conspicuously failed to rise to meet that challenge.That in the end, like the alky coward he is, he took September 11th down to the Check-N-Go at 2:00, cashed it, and blew the whole fucking thing on the Shiny, Useless War that he really, reeeeally wanted instead of the things his family actually needed. As for over two years, he has gotten away with driving his Shiny, Useless War all over Iraq and strutting and fretting and slurring his hour upon the world stage – an undeserving man to whom chance gave a shot at greatness, and whose small, mean soul let him piss it all away.And now the tab comes due.Now we rise groggily to our feet and look around and wonder, shit, who the Hell is gonna pay for this mess, and we turn to the President who wrecked the place and start asking hard questions. Which is when the true nature of the Right rears its ugly head.When, suddenly, we free and proud Americans are told that we now have a fucking King, and it is treason to talk against Him. Which is why his Party is doomed.Because politics aside, the GOP has put this country into some very deep and dangerous shit, and only by diagnosing the problems accurately will we ever begin to climb out the hole they dropped us is....
And for the sake of comparison, here is Very Serious Conservative Bret Stephens back in September of 2006 when he was a respectable Republican member of the editorial board of Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal. Spoiler: It's all straight Fox News Republican Party line...
For example, the Iraq War was a terrific idea...
Well, what's, you know - I think there's this famous story that Mao or maybe Zhou Enlai had a conversation with either Nixon or Kissinger in which I'll say Nixon asked Mao what he thought the affects of the cultural revolution were and - not the cultural revolution, the French revolution were - and Mao's reply was "It's too soon to tell." That was, you know, 180 years after the date. So it's very hard from, you know, the standpoint of the present to make a final determination about the decision. But I do think that from this standpoint it was the right decision...
And even if the original reasons we were given were, y'know, lies, well, it was still a terrific idea...
Thirdly, I do think that the democracy agenda really did start to become much more relevant in the days after September 11th when you said, you know, you have - you have here conditions which create a culture and whether Saddam Hussein was or was not - and, you know, apparently he was not actually connected to the bin Laden or the planners of this attack - he was, in a sense, part of, you know, a kind of element, symbol of this culture in which they swam and someone needed to take a very big swing at that.
And anyway, some imaginary Liberal out there somewhere would probably be bagging on Dubya if he hadn't, y'know, lied us into the wrong war...
It would have - I wonder what, for instance, someone like John Kerry would be saying if Saddam Hussein were still in power. I bet he'd be saying, you know, this president - well I mean I don't want to put words in Mr. Kerry's mouth but I bet someone out there, some current critic of the war would be saying this president has allowed Saddam Hussein to remain in place while he brutalizes his people, almost certainly works on weapons of mass destruction programs, and plots against his neighbors.
And whether or not it Iraq had become a meat-grinding, army-breaking, treasury-bankrupting clusterfuck (oops) is less important than the awesomeness of our intentions...
Now talking about what happened after the war is a different - is really a different subject, whether it could have been handled differently. Those are all legitimate criticisms. But the original decision to go to war I think was right.
Also Democrats should seriously consider losing in 2006 because something something strategery!
But I would say this I think with more confidence, I think that if I were a card-carrying Democrat, rank-and-file Democrat, the last thing I would want is for this Democratic congressional leadership to come into majority positions because that will play very well for Republicans two years down the road when the stakes are bigger...
And how you noticed how very shrill Nancy Pelosi is?
Because I think that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid cut very unattractive political figures. I know neither of them so again, this impression is a surface one. But you get the sense when you're listening to Pelosi that she - that she's dreading the follow-up question because she doesn't know. There is a kind of shrillness about her style of politics as well as - as well as Harry Reid's' and also a bit of a hollowness...
In fact, the terrorist-loving Left would be much better served shutting up and getting in line...
And I do think the Democrats have to do a better job of getting seriously aboard the war on terror...
And you hear that occasionally from Democrats but what you really hear, I mean the kind of broad meta message is we're going to get out of Iraq, and we're going to sort of - it's going to be a kind of come-home-America moment. And I think that's not a good message for the Democrats to have...
And how about that Joe Lieberman! Ain't he just the cat's fucking silk PJs? (oops again)
One thing that I am heartened by is what seems to be Joe Lieberman's strength in Connecticut. It displays a kind of I think healthy instinct among voters. But you want Democrats just like Joe Lieberman...
Then, during the Obama Administration -- during thsoe eight years of lockstep, unremitting Republican lying and raving racism and performance art vandalism -- these very same Serious Conservatives all once again took their place at the contralto end of the wingnut chorus, and dutifully sang sad dirges about "The Extremes on Both Sides" and "Why Won't Obama Lead?".
And now that the myriad frauds and perpetrated by their Republican Party during the Age of Obama have been exile to the unmentionable Past and their Republican Party has elected a manifestation of it's own, pure, unhinged Id as president, those same Serious Conservatives -- Serious Conservatives like David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Fred Hiatt and Bret Stephens -- have all suddenly discovered the existence of Fox News, and Hate Radio and the rest of the vast, wingnut welfare system that has been the bulwark of their Republican Party for virtually their entire adult lives.
And they have all found shiny new side-hustles bravely writing about the Derangement of the Right, in ways that are hilariously identical to what the dirty, America-hating Left has been writing for decades.
Shiny new side-hustles bravely writing about the Villainy of Fox News, 20 years too late and only after Roger Ailes is safely dead.
From Bret Stephens in his brand new job cranking out Serious Conservative opinions for The New York Times
Roger Ailes: The Man Who Wrecked Conservatism
Oh no, Bret. Ailes didn't wreck Conservatism. You did. You and David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer and Fred Hiatt and Michael Gerson and David Frum and all the rest of you.
Conservatism was wrecked because back when it mattered, you Serious Conservatives were nowhere to be found. Back when it mattered, you didn't stand up to Ailes, but instead happily stood aside while Ailes and Limbaugh and Levin and Coulter and all the rest did the dirty, despicable work of slandering the Left and pandering to the worst instincts of the Right.
Dirty work you were too dainty to do, but were only too happy to profit from as long Fox News and Hate Radio focused the rage and paranoia of the Pig People on targets you didn't like anyway.
I tried to warn you back in 2005, Bret. Warn you that this very day would come and there would be a terrible price to pay for your silent, spineless complicity. I even used very simple words as one does when speaking to a small child, but you didn't listen. None of you listened. And here we are, a decade later, a decade older. Me. still a foolish Liberal pariah, still shouting into the maelstrom. And you, with a glorious new job as The New York Times' newest Serious Conservative, writing pieces that are virtually indistinguishable --
Nor does the network have any fixed set of ideas that it seeks to champion or disseminate, other than an ostentatious patriotism that has the distinct feel of a marketing campaign.
What Fox is mainly in the business of doing is hating the left. In the manner of Ailes himself, its convictions stem from its resentments — and shift accordingly. It is sympathetic to military intervention when the left is against it (Iraq) and hostile when the left is for it (Libya); anti-Russia when President Obama was reaching out to Russia, pro-Russia when Obama started getting tough on the Kremlin.
-- from what people like me were getting stomped to bits for writing a decade ago.
But with one big difference, of course, because despite all we have been through, it is still career suicide for Serious Conservatives to speak aloud the most terrible and worst-kept Beltway secret of them all: that the Left has been right about the Right all along.
You and your kind already failed the gravest moral test of your lives when you chose to knife the truth in the back and threw in with monsters because it was easy and profitable and that was the way the wind was blowing. And speaking for all Liberals everywhere, while we welcome old adversaries who have truly seen the light and now fight on the side of the angels. until we see actual confession, genuine contrition and sincere atonement from America's Serious Conservatives, we're not interested in whatever you're selling.