The New Bi-Partisanship: President Bush's Legacy?

It is beginning to look like George Bush may be a uniter, not a divider, after all.

It’s not that the loyal opposition doesn’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming. But the Bush-bashers of the world are slowly being brought into the fold, recognizing the common interest … or at least, for now, beginning to arrive at common ends in their own interest.


In war, we know, the ends so often do justify the means, so who’s to quibble about why impeachment proceedings are not going ahead; why alleged U.S. “torture” just became a non-issue; why the Democratic leadership in Congress is ready to fund the U.S. troops fighting terrorism and trying to build a free nation in Iraq; and why, belatedly, said leadership and other critics are acknowledging that the Bush counter-insurgency strategy there is in fact working?

Perhaps it is better simply to appreciate that these things are happening.

I’m sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. These are strange and heady times, after all.

It’s not every day that one learns that a favorite anti-administration brickbat … the claims that the Bush administration has engaged in torture and illegal detentions … is revealed to bear a Democratic seal of approval. That’s what we learned last weekend, when we learned that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders were briefed, in detail, in September of 2002, about harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding and the network of secret overseas “black site” prisons. The Congressional delegation’s concern a year after the 9/11 attacks?


“The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

It was not the weekend’s only stunning revelation. The Washington Post also delivered an about-face from retired Gen. John Batiste, erstwhile anti-war movement standard bearer. Apparently we are winning in Iraq, and Iraq is now critical in the war on terrorism.

It’s time to discuss the way forward rather than prosecute the past. Congress must do the same, for our nation and the troops.

Americans must mobilize for the Long War — bolster our strained military, galvanize industry to supply troops with what they need right now and fund the strategy with long-term solutions. We have no doubt that Americans will rally behind a call to arms.

It was a remarkable turnaround, and a recognition that the American people have deep reserves of strength and self-sacrifice that can be drawn on. If they are asked. The greatest failing of the Bush administration, then and now … it never asked. Now, an AP/Ipsos poll reports, a 52 percent majority of Americans see progress in Iraq. A majority always indicated they preferred to win, and now apparently they think it may be possible. The number who think history will view the war as a success has climbed to 42 percent. Batiste’s stark recognition of facts is remarkable and encouraging, as is the renewed American optimism.


The Democratic leadership in Congress is once again preparing to give George Bush the money he needs to prosecute the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without a withdrawal deadline. There’s nothing high-minded about it. It’s a matter of votes and vetoes, again, and there’s a shakedown. At last report, the deal was on shaky ground. Not because of the lack of a withdrawal measure. Over terms of the shakedown. This time, the capitulation is happening without loud protestations about a failed policy, a debacle, a quagmire. Instead, there is grudging recognition of an ugly truth: Even anti-war zealot U.S. Rep. John Murtha has been compelled to acknowledge it, and the Democratic presidential candidates don’t want to talk about it. We are winning in Iraq. The opposition’s debate is rapidly becoming, as is ultimately the case in surrender negotiations, a matter of achieving the best possible terms.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was right in 2004, when he famously called George Bush “a divider.” It is indisputable that Bush’s hard stand against terrorism and tyranny, and his insistence that war in our time is a necessary evil, bitterly divided a country large elements of which did not want to hear that as the bloody cost and difficulty of war became apparent.


Following early successes in Iraq and Afghanistan, people were allowed to believe that war can be easy. Instantly gratifying, as we’ve come to expect everything should be. We’ve learned otherwise. Even what has been historically speaking a relatively light war, has been painful, frustrating, and divisive. Mistakes and misjudgments, instead of being acknowledged and corrected, were compounded. But it has been a learning experience, yet again, as each war apparently must be, for our military, for our political leadership, for us.

It is beginning to look like George Bush’s stubborn, often inarticulate singlemindedness is carrying the day, and may force, kicking and screaming, a new water’s edge bi-partisanship in our nation’s vital security interest. Americans once again appear ready to acknowledge that we are one nation, with one government, and that in the face of great evil, we can win and must win. If in fact that recognition is fully realized amid the coming year’s electioneering, then George Bush’s greatest legacy, with no small irony, could be a new bi-partisanship. A nation united in its own self-interest.

We’re not quite there yet. If the American people and politicians are slowly coming to agreement on where we are, that still falls short of agreement on where we are going.


It may be too much to expect George Bush to present a uniting vision of the future that will transcend party differences and political opportunism. He may do better simply to tell Americans what history expects of them and call on them to deliver. And leave leaders of all political stripes, faced with indisputable facts on the ground, with no option but to vie for the right to carry success forward, rather than argue over who can best manage a failure.

Read more from Jules Crittenden at Forward Movement.


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