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by Jonah Goldberg
Is the Iraq war to blame for the mess we are in?
Now, I should qualify that question by explaining "mess" and "we." By "mess," I mean the dawn of Barack Obama's second term, the predictably catastrophic rollout of Obamacare, the exploding debt and deficit, the stimulus boondoggles, etc. By "we," I mean conservatives (particularly those, like me, who supported the war), but also anyone else who doesn't think Obama has done a bang-up job.
There seems to be a growing consensus that the answer to that question is "yes." In a recent column, the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein writes, "It's hard to see how Obamacare would have become law if Bush had never invaded Iraq."
Quibbles aside, their most basic claim seems irrefutable. Whatever defenses there may be for the Iraq war, it was a staggering political disaster for the
That the war became an albatross for the
The backlash against the war emboldened liberals and opened their minds and hearts to a vast new sense of what was possible. During George W. Bush's second term, liberals seemed to have lost the taste for cannibalism that had made the
Younger liberals in particular had shed their disdain for the label "Democrat." Heck yeah, we're Democrats. We're "fighting Democrats," as the left-wing bloggers liked to say. And that was before the "historic" candidacy of Barack Obama, pitted first against the pro-war dinosaurs of the
Obviously, none of this means that if there had been no Iraq war, Republicans would be sitting pretty. As Douthat notes, we might be in the middle of a second Hillary Clinton term. But a Hillary Clinton administration, minus the legacy of the Iraq war, might have been a far sight more conservative -- and successful -- than the spectacle of the Obama years.
The more interesting question is: "What do you do about it?"
One answer is for the
Some didn't even need a committee report. Whatever the merits of his positions, one has to admire the swiftness and alacrity of Sen. Rand Paul's positioning as a different kind of Republican.
Another (in no way exclusive) answer is to take a page from the Democrats.
If the Obama agenda has pulled the country leftward -- and I think it has -- that creates new opportunities for the
Obamacare, the stimulus and the various green-energy boondoggles are in no literal way like the Iraq war. But as a matter of politics, Obama's overreach is real. For instance, every promise the
The press coverage of this unfolding train wreck remains timid in a way that coverage of the war wasn't. The moment the mainstream media could get away with calling Iraq a "quagmire" it did. With Obamacare, much of the press is like Kevin Bacon trying to be a traffic cop in Animal House. It shouts "All is well!" even as it's being trampled by the crowd.
Sad as it may be to say so, the failure of Obamacare touches more people's lives directly than the war did, meaning the media filter matters less.
Politics is about moments and personalities. Just ask Obama. By all means the
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Can GOP Reverse the Damage Done by Iraq? | Politics