The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

McCain is pro-Bush-- will Bush be pro-McCain?

In spite of being 95% recycled material, the president's speeches of the last two days appear to have revealed more about the White House's policies than we've learned in a very long time. And for once, TNR's Ryan Lizza has written a piece that didn't cause me to cringe in embarrassment. It's actually a pretty intriguing piece.

With Bush sliding into political irrelevancy, and with Republicans running for president readjusting their relationship to him accordingly, Bush suddenly has a decision to make. He knows his legacy is tied to the war and he believes the fate of the war will be decided by his successor. So which aspiring Republican commander-in-chief does he trust to determine his fate?

I would guess there are two basic criteria, both hallmarks of Bushian thinking, that he is considering. First, Bush genuinely seems to believe that only he and his team understand the true nature of the post-9/11 threats America faces. One gets the sense he and Dick Cheney believe few leaders have the stomach to make the tough decisions they've had to make--on preemptive war, the use of torture, and illegal domestic surveillance. "I understand how tough it is," Bush said yesterday about Iraq. In a separate speech, Cheney, playing the bad cop after Bush's slightly more conciliatory press conference, declared, "As we get farther away from September 11, 2001, some in Washington are yielding to the temptation to downplay the threat, and to back away from the business at hand."

He was presumably talking about Democrats, but no doubt Bush and Cheney are eyeing their Republican colleagues with the same suspicions. There seems to be only one issue in the Bush primary. Whatever Bush may have once stood for--tax cuts, social conservatism--it all seems puny and ephemeral compared with the way he defends his decision to invade Iraq. So which 2008 Republican has the sort of total commitment to the war that possesses Bush? Only John McCain springs to mind. And with the notable exception of the use of torture, McCain is also the staunchest backer of Bush's self-proclaimed wartime powers.