Crocodile Tears for G.O.P. Apathy

With words couched in sympathy to put Republicans off guard and further soften their political will, left-leaning pundits are sharpening their pencils, booting up their computers, and licking their chops at the prospect of a G.O.P. presidential defeat in '08:

"Some in G.O.P. Express Worry Over '08 Hopes," reads a recent template headline in the New York Times. "Republican leaders across the country say they are growing increasingly anxious about their party's chances of holding the White House, citing public dissatisfaction with President Bush, the political fallout from the war in Iraq and the problems their leading presidential candidates are having generating enthusiasm among conservative voters."

So, that explains it.

Well maybe conservative voters aren't so much dissatisfied with President Bush as they are demoralized by the rhetorical onslaught that hounds and hobbles almost everything his administration has attempted to do in his second term - the so-called "political fallout." Iraq is clearly the focal point, and it may well have been wrong to invade. Given the genie set free by the rub of our political passion, that conclusion seems pretty much drawn. But the crux of the matter isn't whether Iraq was a mistake, it's whether President George W. Bush ever broke with our trust in the first place. Did he lie about WMD as an excuse for the war? Did he fabricate the pretense in a grab for the oil?

Prior to the '06 elections, accusations of willful deceit by the President were swarming the airwaves and newspapers and bursting forth from the lips of every Democrat candidate, no matter what office they sought. We were told in no uncertain terms that the President lied about the reasons for going to war; he misused his authority; he violated the Constitution; he can't be trusted and he should be impeached. The direct result of this verbal campaign was the Democrat takeover of Congress. But then after the elections the accusations transformed. "He's just an incompetent."

What was that about trust?

There's ample precedent in our history to vilify presidents. Presidents Nixon and Clinton come to mind. But compare accusations made against them to those made more recently. Nixon and Clinton's misdeeds are pale in comparison to the alleged misconduct of President Bush, yet their accusers followed through. Now the Democrat leadership, having accused Bush of no less than high treason for which impeachment is mandatory, just sweep it all under the rug. And we're supposed to chalk it all up to politics. The moment the Democrats backed off their rhetoric, alarm bells should have sounded throughout the G.O.P. Instead, the silence has been deafening.

So not only are conservatives demoralized, they're mortified too - mortified by such damning accusations being so casually discounted, and mortified by their own leadership's apparent surrender to the Democrats' masterful manipulation of mass psychology. Yet despite this, or more rightly because of it, many conservatives are in awe of their President. They're awed by the fact he's held on to his principles in the face of overwhelming condemnation from the left and a betrayal by silence from the right. To many, the President's stoic adherence to principles shows he has indeed kept the trust, and it confers upon him the mantle of a true tragic hero.

Thus, in addition to being demoralized and mortified, conservatives are confused, because no Republican presidential candidate seems inclined to pick up the loose ends in this tragedy. But with such serious unfinished business still left on the table, is it any wonder Republican candidates aren't getting much traction? Conservatives hunger for a candidate who will fight the good fight, not for political power but for what's truthful and right. That means taking the Democrats to task for their rhetoric leading up to the '06 election. Any Republican candidate with the courage to campaign on this basis would bring conservatives to their stomping feet, because they inherently know that accusations of presidential high treason cannot go untested without damaging our fragile democracy.

One of the great beauties of our democracy is the minority's willingness to accept majority rule in the wake of an election - to holster misgivings and perhaps entertain the possibility of majority wisdom. But this can't be sustained in a climate where politics have devolved into a contest whose objective is to humiliate and pulverize the opposition. Rather than impeach President Bush, Democrats clearly prefer pecking away to prolong his party's weakness going into the '08 elections. While tactically brilliant this is morally selfish, because the catharsis of making a full and open inquiry may well be the only way to mend our Country's divisions. When a president is accused of lying about matters of national security, we should know the truth. Either President Bush should be impeached, or the results of last November's election are illegitimate. Those are the choices dictated by logic. Instead, we've been dragged to new depths and perhaps almost to ruin by giving in to blind hatred. That should be worth a few honest tears.

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