Doug Bandow points us to this remarkable column by Jeffrey Lord at American Spectator, noting the prevalence of hyperbole in political rhetoric today and the tendency of those on the modern right to use pejorative names to smear war critics as traitors.  What he might have also remarked on was the odd habit that some of Mr. Bush’s supporters seem to have in comparing him to the tyrant Lincoln as a way of praising his leadership or urging him to follow Lincoln’s example.  (Perhaps the comparisons between two Presidents who routinely violated the Constitution and launched aggressive wars are just too obvious to be ignored.) 

He could also have noted how utterly bizarre it is for a conservative columnist to write admiringly of RFK and his utopian use of the line, “I dream of things that never were and ask ‘Why not?’”  The conservative answer to that question is, of course, because those things have never existed before and are not likely to exist in the future.  That’s why not.  Take Arab democracy, for instance–please!  It has never really existed anywhere, and there are very good reasons why it has never existed.  Arab societies appear to lack the habits, social structure and political traditions that are amenable to the creation of such a political regime.  More basically, other things seem to take priority over the establishment of such a regime; even if they are theoretically suited to the regime, they may not do what is necessary to create it.  The reality that something has never existed is a good indication that it probably cannot be brought into existence.  The conservative takes the lack of precedent for something to be as meaningful and important as the inheritance of precedents.  RFK’s quote of Shaw should horrify conservatives, and if Mr. Bush can be said to be following RFK’s lead conservatives should be horrified by Mr. Bush. 

Mr. Bandow could also have noted the weird non sequitur in the column when Mr. Lord writes:

The premiere example of this, of course, is Lincoln. Seeing disunion and slavery as what it was, he not only said “why not?” to their opposites, but grimly went about the task of making those imagined opposites reality. As with the Bush-haters of today, those who despised Lincoln for actually daring to make his dream of union and freedom for blacks a reality were relentless in their attacks. With the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq hovering north of 3,000, it is worth recalling the absolute furor whirling around the sixteenth president as he devoted himself to making his vision a reality of American life, a vision that finally cost over 600,000 dead in four years.

The recent trials and tribulations of the suddenly-famous Miss USA, Tara Conner, remind that centuries of bad human experience with alcohol and the fast life cannot save an individual human in modern times from making the same mistakes with alcohol and the fast life all over again. There is a similar version of Ms. Conner’s experience in the world of politics and government, with smart people who are supposed to have some understanding of history nonetheless falling into precisely the same traps that history warns those smart people repeatedly against. Presidents daring to ask “why not?” are besieged by those who will insist that the President in question has mismanaged the vision — blundered, listened to fools and otherwise shown himself to be one of the worst presidents in history.

And the critics are always right, to a point. Being human, it is simply impossible for any president to implement a war policy (or any other policy) without mismanaging, blundering, or listening to fools somewhere along the line. Flyspeck the historical records of the great presidents and these moments are glaringly obvious.

But so is something else. That something else is the utterly dependable voice of critics who simply do not have the will to carry through with the hard work of making a vision reality, critics who will abandon constructive thought altogether and head for the figurative sidelines to carp, moan, whine, and quiver.

So because Miss USA has had problems with alcohol, apparently in spite of the previous existence of the temperance movement and AA, we should not be surprised that critics of abusive, warmongering presidents fail to learn to be quiet and defer to the great man’s vision.  Like Miss USA, the critics await a great man like Donald Trump to rescue them from the consequences of their own self-destructive habits!  So thank goodness that we have a President with the insight and wisdom of a Donald Trump helming the ship of state.  I think that was the point of this bizarre example.

Well, not quite.  The real point was, I suppose, that at least Mr. Bush and other wild-eyed dreamers are trying to “do something” while their critics are not being part of the solution.  They are naysayers, which is supposed to mark them as limited or failed men who do not want to do what it takes to realise the great vision.  Never mind that the “vision” may be insane or undesirable and that the best thing good men can do is to tear it down and destroy it before it can be realised. 

Mr. Lord really enjoys the Lincoln-Bush comparison:

Yet Lincoln stood fast by his vision even as his critics lacerated him as a bumbling incompetent when he wasn’t busy being a tyrant, precisely the portrait painted by Bush’s legion of noisy critics.

But Lincoln was a bumbling incompetent and a tyrant.  He did have the virtue of being able to learn from his many mistakes, and he shared with Mr. Bush an immense reserve of psychological endurance that enabled him to press on in realising his horrible, bloody vision.  In fairness to Mr. Bush, he has been in some ways less tyrannical than Lincoln was (dissident editors and politicians have not been imprisoned by this administration), and his war has possibly resulted in fewer deaths, but where exactly the Copperheads have actually been wrong about what Lincoln did or where his critics are wrong about Mr. Bush are things Mr. Lord does not see fit to tell us.  He takes it as a given that the means they undertook to try to achieve their noble goals, if such they are, are more than justified by those goals.  All that’s missing is a reference to omelettes.  If that is leadership, then leadership be damned.