The Corner

The Obama Era

If you haven’t read Ross Douthat’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times, please do so at once. Some salient excerpts:

History is too contingent to say that had there been no Iraq invasion in 2003, there would be no Democratic majority in 2012. . . . But the Democratic majority that we do have is a majority that the Iraq war created: its energy and strategies, its leadership and policy goals, and even its cultural advantages were forged in the backlash against George W. Bush’s Middle East policies. . . .

Had the Iraq invasion turned out differently, this movement and the Democratic establishment might have spent a decade locked in conflict. But when the W.M.D. didn’t turn up and the occupation turned into a fiasco, the two wings of the party made peace: the establishment embraced the grass roots’ anti-Bush fervor, and the insurgents helped transform liberalism’s infrastructure and organizing and communication. . . .

But once Bush’s foreign-policy credibility collapsed, his domestic political capital collapsed as well: moderates stopped working with him, conservatives rebelled, and the White House’s planned second-term agenda — Social Security reform, tax and health care reform, immigration overhaul — never happened.

This collapse, and the Republican Party’s failure to recover from it, enabled the Democrats to not only seize the center but push it leftward, and advance far bolder proposals than either Al Gore or John Kerry had dared to offer. The Iraq war didn’t just make Obama possible — it made Obamacare possible as well.

Indeed. The war’s strategic incoherence — which will ultimately doom the entire Middle Eastern project — the Bush administration’s adamant unwillingness to push back against the rising Democratic tide, and the president’s failure to provide for any semblance of a succession, and leaving the field to a superannuated and unpersuasive John McCain, led directly to the Obama ascendancy, and all its attendant (and forthcoming) ills. 

Like father, like son. The first President Bush squandered sky-high poll ratings into a defeat at the hands of a man the nation barely knew, Bill Clinton, in part because of the unsatisfying end to the first Gulf War, which ended with Saddam Hussein still in power. Thanks in large part to Iraq, the second Bush gave us the two terms of Barack Obama.

Maybe the next Republican administration tempted by adventurism, U.N. resolutions, and Third World nation-building will learn from their mistakes. Or, more likely, not. One shudders to think what might follow a Jeb Bush presidency. 

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