Politics & Policy

Show a Little Charity, Laura Ingraham

Ingraham at CPAC 2015 (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Laura Ingraham has changed her mind on the Iraq War: The popular conservative radio host used to be for it, now she thinks the 2003 invasion was a terrible foreign-policy blunder.

And that’s fine! It shows real intellectual rigor — and strength of character — for a public figure to openly change his or her mind when confronted with new facts and a new circumstance. Public intellectuals who, for reasons of pride or stubbornness, cling to their pet causes Captain Ahab–like in spite of all evidence deserve little patience and less attention.

That being said, a public figure who has changed his mind on a controversial issue of great import should show a little charity for those who have not yet crossed that Rubicon.

And Laura Ingraham can’t seem to show much charity for those on the right who still believe that our invasion of Iraq was the correct choice but that the war was badly bungled in the intervening 13 years.

RELATED: Trump’s Dishonest Iraq War Revisionism

In a column arguing against the “#NeverTrump” position of some conservatives, Ingraham levels what can only be described as a cheap shot at what she calls “Bushism”:

Bushism teaches that Americans have a moral duty to spend blood and treasure all around the world in order to promote our values — no matter the cost in suffering to folks here at home.

Does anyone really believe that? Would any former Bush-administration official assert that Americans should police the world, instilling our values “no matter the cost in suffering” to the home front?

Talk about knocking down a straw man.

In May 2015, during the heady days of the grassroots revolt against Jeb Bush’s candidacy, Ingraham took to her radio show to say: “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you.”

RELATED: Looking Back at Iraq

Earlier this month, Ingraham tweeted out a sarcastic riposte to people who were critiquing Donald Trump’s more-nationalist foreign policy: “Need new bumpersticker: ‘Neocons for Hillary.’”

Leave aside for one moment whether the Iraq War was a mistake.

Leave aside who is at fault for the current unhappy state of affairs in that God-forsaken country, and for the American blood and treasure expended in our efforts.

RELATED: Iraq, the Real Story

Leave aside whether Ingraham’s preferred candidate, Donald J. Trump, is actually the prophet he so enthusiastically claims he was on this issue. Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski has thoroughly debunked Trump’s claims that he was always against the war; when Howard Stern asked Trump in a 2002 interview if he supported the proposed invasion, Trump responded limply: “Yeah, I guess so. I wish it was done correctly the first time.”

(Leave aside, for that matter, my position on the Iraq War — probably a mistake, all things considered, though no one was exactly asking middle-school me my opinions on war and peace in 2003.)

#share#The fact is that Laura Ingraham enthusiastically backed “Bushism” and what at least some would deem “neoconservatism” for much of the first half-decade of the war. She gave airtime to Bush-administration officials — even the so-called neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz — so they could make their case for the invasion. She spoke and wrote and argued that American intervention in the Middle East would be a difficult but necessary step on the road to defeating radical Islamic jihad.

Even when the war began to go wrong and the American people began to turn on the seemingly endless morass, Ingraham defended the war. In June 2006, Bill O’Reilly introduced Ingraham before an interview with her by describing her as “one of the most ardent supporters of the Iraq War” — and Ingraham didn’t challenge the description. In fact, she argued for staying the course in the face of growing combat casualties and faltering support at home.

It’s brutal. It’s horrible. The reality of war is awful. And I agree, Bill, it is incredibly difficult in Iraq, maybe miscalculations were obviously made about the strength of the insurgency. But what I’m telling you is when the troops consistently tell me . . . “Look, we’ve got to finish this.” What’s the alternative? Pulling out of Iraq? 

Well, yes. There were many who were — rightly or wrongly — arguing that America should do just that: pull out of Iraq.

Later, in November 2007, Ingraham gave the keynote address to the 23rd Annual Founders’ Night Dinner. In her speech, Ingraham described the Iraq conflict as “a war we need to win.” She said the American efforts were “making a difference in the lives of” the Iraqi people. That . . . sure sounds fairly neocon-ey to me.

RELATED: The Costs of Abandoning Messy Wars

Look, I like Laura Ingraham. She has been a forceful and fearless proponent of conservatism since the late 1980s. She conducts her radio show with wit and aplomb and has never shirked from taking on leftists. I have enjoyed her guest-hosting stints on the O’Reilly Factor for years.

But, in this matter and on this issue, Ingraham should show some humility. She should avoid casting  “neoconservative” as a pejorative — in the same way that her enemies on the left do — to attack those on the right with whom she disagrees. She should show some charity to those with whom she used to agree.

Laura Ingraham no longer supports the Iraq War. She thinks it was a mistake. That’s fine. Reasonable people can take that position — and reasonable people can take the position that the Bush and Obama administrations fatefully bungled our efforts at great cost. But she should lighten up on her charge that “Bushism” and the Iraq War were at root a globalist plot to weaken the United States of America. She, after all, had a hand in all that, too.


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