Dana Milbank destroys Ari Fleischer this morning – and deservedly so. Fleischer’s instant reaction to even the news of an agreement – without any knowledge of its details – was to denounce it. Dana calls the faster-than-a-jerking-knee response “mindless.” And how could one argue against that? To denounce something before you even know what it is … well, what else do you call it?
It is indeed mindless to denounce a temporary agreement for a six month negotiation to end the possibility of Iranian nuclear bombs without offering any feasible alternative. The one proffered – to actually tighten the sanctions that have already brought the Iranian regime to its knees – cannot work to achieve the desired result. Such sanctions would destroy Rouhani’s standing and credibility, split apart the global coalition on sanctions, help cement in Khamenei’s mind that no deal is possible with the West without national humiliation and regime change, and do nothing to, actually, you know, stop Iran’s nuclear program. It is a de facto argument for war as the only acceptable policy toward Iran.
So their policy is effectively another pre-emptive Middle East war on a country with no nuclear weapons with unknowable consequences and without any allies that would only delay, at best, an Iranian nuclear program. Does any of that sound familiar to you? Such a war would, moreover, strengthen the regime, dis-empower the opposition and all but guarantee that any Iranian regime would try even harder to get a nuclear deterrent. You will find nothing, nothing in the GOP analysis that even begins to absorb the fact that the Iranian opposition also supports a civilian nuclear program. So they are also intent on picking the one fight with Iran that would unite the regime and the people.
Yes, Dana is right. The word for this is mindless. It is an attitude – a nasty, belligerent, impulsive attitude, the kind of attitude that gave us the Iraq war and Abu Ghraib, and made the world less, rather than more safe. Or consider Syria. The GOP was determined to stop a military strike and also denounced the UN-Russian deal to secure and destroy Syria’s WMDs! So that’s a no and a no. And the last no was to a policy that has been remarkably successful in ending a major source of WMD worry in the region. They opposed a policy that made Israel more secure.
As for healthcare, words fail.
They are running for Congress next year entirely on a platform of repeal and sabotage. They have offered nothing faintly serious to grapple with the dysfunctional socialized system America now labors under – no program to end the free rider problem or the pre-existing conditions problem or the uninsured problem or the costs problem. None, none, none and none. One reason I’ve been grateful for Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin’s proposals is that at least they exist, have some real merits and might be an alternative. But what’s staggering is how lonely their position is within the actual GOP.
This total nihilism on policy and nullification strategy toward the president, whatever he does, is also mindless for another reason. It is not good for the GOP. At some point, they will not get back the White House without an alternative, and the prospect of ending the insurance the ACA would provide without any alternative is a fool’s errand. It will backfire in the end, even though it may feel very good at the beginning. They are setting themselves up once again to appear as callous, intemperate and denialist. In the end, the American people will pick the party and the president with the constructive ideas rather than the destructive attitude. In this, the Republicans have entrenched Obama’s legacy and done nothing to shape it to more conservative ends. Again: mindless.
I care about this not just because I care about the country, but because I also deeply believe in a strong conservative force in politics. We don’t have that right now, whatever they say. We have a nihilist force. And it is cloaking itself in a political tradition they have long ago left in the dust.