Eleven days ago, Jonah Goldberg wrote a shining example of what passes for “moral clarity” in the world of Bush loyalists. Basically, presidents who lie for the right reasons will be excused in the eyes of historians and later generations, and Goldberg says that if Bush lied he might likewise escape future censure. Yet the fact of the matter is that if what FDR did had been known publicly at the time he would have readily been impeached for abusing the power of his office, deceiving the public and Congress, and committing the government to war illegally. This would have been a good thing–America would be more of a free country today had it happened, the President would be more like a consul and less of an Augustus, and Americans would not be dying in truly useless foreign wars. Whatever the outcome of WWII without our involvement, America would be better off today had we never been involved. Every American ought to grow up learning to execrate the man who buried the Republic. That it is a sort of modern consensus that his crimes were necessary and his deceit justifiable shows us how far we are from the spirit of our great-grandparents’ America.
FDR should have been locked away for what remained of his miserable life. At the very least, he should have been driven from office, his name as loathsome to the ears of Americans as the name Caesar was to our ancestors. That is the only healthy response of a republican to his crimes and deceit. Because Mr. Bush lied and knew he lied, as Dr. Fleming has correctly said, he ought to be treated in just this way.
Faced with the possibility of presidential lying (remember that phrase from a few years back?) on a matter of national security, Goldberg evinces all the pathetic sycophancy of a royal panegyrist without any of the associated rhetorical ability. The Goldbergs of the world deserve presidents like George Bush–and so do we, as long as we tolerate their crimes. The difference between kings and elected autocrats is that kings at least put some store by their honour and reputation, perhaps because their subjects put more store by personal integrity than we do. They might lie for the sake of some policy, but their courtiers would never openly praise the virtue of the king’s deceit.
Hat tip to Gene Healy.