Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Opportunists

Readers of this blog have surely noticed that some of the recurring characters are collectively known as the neoconservatives, or “neocons.”

Without going into too much detail, “neoconservative” is the term used to describe members of the Democratic party who left after George McGovern’s nomination in 1972 because they disagreed with the South Dakotan’s “Come Home, America,” pledge.

So, the neoconservatives are liberals who left for the Republican Party because they needed a political home for their doctrines of limitless war and intervention around the world. This found resonance in a GOP that, especially by the 1980’s and Ronald Reagan’s presidency, was determined to win the Cold War. In short, the neoconservatives are always looking for a war in which to plunge their country.

Many of these people have ample access to the nation’s print and television media. Bill Kristol is a fixture on Fox News, so is Charles Krauthammer, and John Bolton gets a favorable amount of time there as well. Bill Bennett gets regular time on CNN while Norman Podhoretz, his son John Podhoretz, and David Horowitz makes rounds on all the networks. Kristol writes a column for The New York Times, as does David Brooks, and Krauthammer’s op-eds come out of The Washington Post, two of the nation’s most influential, but hardly right-wing newspapers. Former President Bush speechwriter David Frum is on everywhere from the radio to The Daily Show. In short, there is no shortage of neoconservative opinion in the news world.

Most of these people are liberal on any of a variety of political issues. Bill Kristol occasionally calls himself pro-life, but the son of neocon founding father Irving Kristol was trumpeting Joe Lieberman for John McCain’s running mate this year and believed that Mr. Lieberman would be accepted by the Social Right if he was “introduced in the right way.” David Frum, who castigates anyone who deviates from the GOP’s current foreign policy, loves to remind people that he is not a social conservative or a conservative concerned with stopping illegal immigration.

These people support an open borders immigration policy that originated in the Democratic Party, the ever-growing federal government, disavowal of the Constitution and its limits, and they treat abortion with indifference. But the overriding issue for neoconservatives is foreign policy and a muscular, aggressive foreign policy at that. And any opposition to intervention anywhere for any reason is tantamount to “isolationism,” “appeasement,” and “surrender,” - just read Clifford May anytime.

These people obtained influence during President Reagan’s terms but gained prominence and agenda-setting status during the terms of the second President Bush. Neocons, holding important positions in the administration, pressured President Bush to confront Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and forcibly remove him if necessary. In a time after the attacks of September 11, 2001, with fear and shock still resonating, their scheme worked.

Now after more than five years in Iraq, and seven in Afghanistan, many Americans have grown weary of the all-war-all-the-time message of the Republicans and the neoconservatives. No bigger reason than frustration over the war in Iraq led to the election of a Democratic congress in 2006. And the war in Iraq was perhaps the biggest factor motivating people to vote for Barack Obama for president in 2008. The freshman senator from Illinois won his party’s nomination because he painted himself as an antiwar candidate who had opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. Once he became a general election candidate, he had to talk tougher on foreign policy to avoid criticism of being weak. That led him to making the war in Afghanistan his defining foreign policy issue, a issue that may well prove his ruin. But getting “tough” on the Afghan theater is what is making the supposedly antiwar candidate appealing to the neoconservatives.

This much is evident by the way the neocons are abandoning their president of the last eight years. The person never seen, but always mentioned during the campaign was the president who launched the war in Iraq. The neocons have been shy to defend the unpopular president many people believed they helped to ruin, mainly because they are flocking to the new president-elect, another person they want to manipulate and mold.

President-elect Obama has made Afghanistan an issue again and the neoconservatives are swarming him, heaping all their praise on him and every cabinet selection from the retention of Robert Gates at Defense to the selection of Hillary Clinton at State. These people need to stay in power and need to have influence on American policies. That they are so quickly singing the praises of President-elect Obama’s burgeoning cabinet, promises that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue.

This is far from a comprehensive look at the neocons (I have omitted references to their Trotskyite intellectual forebears, something a more detailed essay on the neocons would require) but a very brief introduction to the people that wrecked the American image and one American presidency. They have been lumped in the GOP for the last several years but look like they are trying to gain influence among a golden Democratic president.

People who so strongly supported (and crafted) the Bush foreign policy, so strangely abandoned the man but not the policies, and raced to kiss the ring of the new emperor are nothing more than shameless opportunists. It is time they are called what they are.

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