…or, everything old is new again, but not the way we ever expect it. Reading the Times’ long Peter Baker portrait of Tom Davis’ (R-Va) finally throwing in the towel, my mind kept going back to the communists of my parents’ generation. They paid some serious dues for a cause [whose putative goals] they really believed in; my grade school class and the one before it each had a son of a Smith Act federal prison inmate. But as the movement was hijacked by substituting power for accomplishment, and the underlying philosophical model got increasingly threadbare and shredded by encounters with facts, they spent decades erecting fabulous structures of rationalization and tactical theory. With practice, they could even swallow the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, never mind the famines and trials, seeing the whole world first looking only in one direction, then looking through a paper towel core, then through a soda straw. The Twentieth Congress speech was the Bush/Rove record/poll standings for most of them, and to this day I feel their anguish. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, alright, but what about a life and your principles? What must it be like to look back and realize letting someone else do your thinking for you made you an enabler of enormous evil?
Davis evaluates Bush as “a disappointment.” A disappointment – there was something in his record before 2000 that justified hope for competence, honesty, or leadership? Sorry, Tom, you sold your soul long before the polls turned against you this year, back when you first put your conservative principles in hock for a Republican Party that only wanted them to tart up something too ugly to look at directly. When you read Animal Farm in college, did you think it was just about Russia? I’m aware of the principle of the prodigal son, and I like to celebrate it when the scales fall from anyone’s eyes, but “there are people who caught on even later!” is a mighty tepid encomium. You get your martyr’s palm after a lot of folks go first, if there are any left.