Writing about the Cordoba Initiative controversy, Kevin Drum says “For once, I really do miss George Bush. The damage he did to the American cause in the Muslim world is incalculable, but at least he never countenanced this kind of lunatic bigotry.”
I think that’s very true. But here’s the thing: George W Bush isn’t dead. He’s alive and well. If he wanted to stand alongside Mayor Bloomberg and do a press conference, I’m sure people would pay attention. Perhaps he’s observing a kind of ex-presidential courtesy and staying out of things. But Dick Cheney hasn’t shied away from inserting himself into political controversies. He could stand up for old fashioned Bush-Cheney values of start lots of wars but steer clear of explicit anti-Muslim bigotry. But he doesn’t want to. Nor does his daughter Liz. Karl Rove was the architect of the Bush administration’s messaging and I see him on Fox News all the time. He, too, could stand up for the approach to conservatism we remember from the Bush era. But he doesn’t want to either.
Now why is that? I couldn’t quite say. But at a minimum it’s indicative that they don’t have a very strong commitment to either the principle of non-discrimination or the strategic conceit that the conservative vision of a “war on terror” is something other than a civilizational struggle with Muslims. It’s too bad. But it is what it is, and that’s not a vanishing from the scene of Bush-era officials it’s their abdication in the face of a line of argument they won’t pursue personally but don’t seem personally disgusted by or anything.