Conservatives Against Bush’s Speech II

Well, after expending so much time defending the ideals put forth in President Bush’s speech, I find it a bit disheartening, though predictable, to see that some are trying to portray that the Administration may be engaged in damage control. For my part, I don’t think that the President was “shifting” his policy with this speech. Rather, it seems clear that he has essentially been proclaiming an “empire for liberty” for quite some time, even if unknowingly.

Bush advisers said the speech was the rhetorical institutionalization of the Bush doctrine and reflected the president’s deepest convictions about the purposes behind his foreign policies. But they said it was carefully written not to tie him to an inflexible or unrealistic application of his goal of ending tyranny.

“It has its own policy implications, but it is not to say we’re not doing this already,” said White House counselor Daniel J. Bartlett. “It is important to crystallize the debate to say this is what it is all about, to say what are our ideals, what are the values we cherish.”

“It is not a discontinuity. It is not a right turn,” said a senior administration official, who spoke with reporters from newspapers but demanded anonymity because he wanted the focus to remain on the president’s words and not his. “I think it is a bit of an acceleration, a raising of the priority, making explicit in a very public way to give impetus to this effort.” He added that it was a “message we have been sending” for some time.

I agree with the “senior administration official,” though I do think that some nervous folks in the Administration couldn’t handle criticism from the right and are trying to placate those, such as Peggy Noonan and William Buckley, who raised an eyebrow at the speech. I think it was the criticism by these pundits, rather than any from abroad, that shocked the Administration and precipitated this ill-advised spin control, if that is actually what is going on.

It is also interesting to discover that some of those whom I earlier cited as supporters of the President’s vision actually may have had a hand in helping craft the speech.

The planning of Bush’s second inaugural address began a few days after the Nov. 2 election with the president telling advisers he wanted a speech about “freedom” and “liberty.” That led to the broadly ambitious speech that has ignited a vigorous debate. The process included consultation with a number of outside experts, Kristol among them.

One meeting, arranged by Peter Wehner, director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, included military historian Victor Davis Hanson, columnist Charles Krauthammer and Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis, according to one Republican close to the White House. White House senior adviser Karl Rove attended, according to one source, but mostly listened to what became a lively exchange over U.S. policy and the fight for liberty.

Gaddis caught the attention of White House officials with an article in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs magazine that seems to belie the popular perception that this White House does not consult its critics.

Gaddis’s article is, at times, strongly critical of Bush’s first-term foreign policy calculations, especially what he calls the twin failures to anticipate international resistance to Bush’s ideas and Iraqi resistance to peace after the fall of Baghdad. But the article also raises the possibility that Bush’s grand vision of spreading democracy could prove successful, and perhaps historic, if the right choices are made in the years ahead.

The former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky also helped shape the speech with his book about the hopes of democratic dissidents jailed by despots around the world. Bush recommended the book, “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror,” to several aides and invited Sharansky, now an Israeli politician, to the White House in mid-November to discuss it, according to one official.

I guess that explains why people such as Hanson and Kristol voiced their support. It doesn’t change my thinking on it, though. Yes, I have an idealistic streak, but it is informed by my sense of history and a belief that, by taking the long view, we can accomplish that outlined in the speech. Some have pointed out that similar ideals were explained by President Reagan. It doesn’t have to be done via military action, and it doesn’t have to be accomplished in 10 years. Rather, it is a policy worth following because in the age of terrorism, it is best for the United States to “clear the swamps.” The byproduct will be freedom in much of the rest of the world. This freedom will be generated by the internal pressure applied by the oppressed and suppressed who will take their cue from the example set by the U.S. In some instances the U.S. will take more direct action, in others less. In all cases, it is our example that will lead the way. Never mind what the intellectuals or politicians say, pay attention to what the people say. They don’t carry the cynicism of so many of the “elite.” They aren’t afraid to hope.

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