Architects of American Carnage
Who cares what the Neocons think? They have no moral authority to police the bounds of allowable opinion.
The banner of principled conservatism is now being carried by the architects of American carnage. By “principled conservatives” all they mean is that they are conservatives who oppose the Republican president. If they have principles—foreign policy interventionism and neoliberal economics—they are bad ones. After The Weekly Standard closed its doors, Bill Kristol and his gang moved on to start new web publications like The Bulwark and The Dispatch. From their new perches, they attempt to police the boundaries of allowable opinion in American politics. We should not let them.
On a personal level, most of these neoconservatives turned Never-Trumpers are very nice people. I’ve known many of them for years. They are serious about their faith, family, and country, and treat others with respect. But politics isn’t about being nice, it’s about the real impact of policy on people’s lives—both at home and abroad. By any measurable standard, their careers are failures. Their policies have killed, yes, literally killed, hundreds of thousands, and they should not be taken seriously.
Their latest attempt to play the part of moral traffic cop came last week when The Bulwarkpublished a hit piece on Rusty Reno & First Things. The catalyst for the article was a series of tweets that Rusty published on Twitter about how people who wear masks are cowards. He made a mistake, and I myself told Rusty he came off like an ass, even though many conservatives actually agree with his broader point about the culture of fear that is developing around the virus. But as The Bulwark acknowledged, their story was not actually about Rusty’s tweets. Rusty’s tweets were simply an excuse to take a scalp. Their real contention is that Rusty has soiled First Things by embracing “Trumpism.” In other words, Rusty is the latest victim of TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Look, I don’t agree with everything Trump says or tweets. No one does! He says a lot of crazy stuff, much of it’s true. But the cure can’t be worse than the disease, as people say. And I’m not talking about the pandemic, but about those who lose their minds in response to passing comments on Twitter. Yes, we all have a moral responsibility to “tame the tongue.” It is, as St. James put it, “…a restless evil. Full of deadly poison.” But after dustups like these, critics at The Bulwark have a way of making themselves look like the ones who need to go to the corner for a time out. SAD!
What exactly is this “Trumpism” that The Bulwark decries? Their chief exemplar is the “Against the Dead Consensus” manifesto that First Thingspublished in March of 2019. In it, the signatories, make their case for, GASP, “common good conservatism,” which defenders of warmed over Reagansim describe as “ill thought out—little more than inchoate mush.” The mushy highlights?
- “We oppose the soulless society of individual affluence.”
- “We stand with the American citizen.”
- “We reject attempts to compromise on human dignity.”
- “We resist a tyrannical liberalism.”
- “We want a country that works for workers.”
- “We believe home matters.”
Man the ramparts. Lock the doors. Here comes the BAD ORANGE MAN with his “infected” magazine. Be watchful, Trumpism comes like a thief in the night!
Let’s be honest. The manifesto is nothing more than Catholic Social Teaching with a populist veneer. It’s goal is to push conservatism in a “pro-worker, pro-family” direction. After decades of conservatives sucking up to the Military Industrial Complex and Big Business, this is a breath of fresh air. But not if you’re an editor at The Bulwark.
Why is that? Because they cannot stand the thought that neoconservative ideology has been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the American people. They miss patting themselves on the back in the Rose Garden on sunny afternoons while the Christian population of Iraq was being decimated, collapsing by over 1 million people, since the beginning of the war. They long for the days when they can be back in power—preferably in a Joe Biden administration—to lecture purportedly “backwards” Arabs on how to practice gratitude. As Kristol’s former colleague, Fred Barnes once put it, “I’d like to see one other thing in Iraq, an outbreak of gratitude for the greatest act of benevolence one country has ever done for another. A grateful Iraqi heart would be a sign of a new Iraqi attitude and a signal of sure success.”
Behold the power of positivity! With a little bit of elbow grease and a “can-do” attitude, there will be a thousand George Washingtons blooming in every corner of the Fertile Crescent.
As their fearless leader once said in his second inaugural: “I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes.”
Well, we’ve seen with our eyes. Today, Bush is a nice old man who passes out candy and paints pictures. But his presidency was an unequivocal catastrophe. Trump was right, “The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush.”
That’s why Trump is president and the Bush-era neocons have been sidelined. If that was the price for exorcising the idealistic infection of Bushism, then so be it. Two years later, I stand by my obituary in the Washington Post, “The Weekly Standard is gone. But the future of conservatism is bright.”