Paul Krugman recently returned from vacation, but as you start to read this you may think he needs another one. Just keep reading:
Don’t Blame Bush, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: I’ve been looking at the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and I’ve come to a disturbing conclusion: maybe we’ve all been too hard on President Bush.
No, I haven’t lost my mind. Mr. Bush has degraded our government and undermined the rule of law; he has led us into strategic disaster and moral squalor.
But the leading contenders for the Republican nomination have given us little reason to believe they would behave differently. Why should they? The ... rank-and-file Republicans continue to approve strongly of Mr. Bush’s policies — and the more un-American the policy, the more they support it. ... For the most part, ... Mr. Bush has done just what his party wants and expects.
There was a telling moment during the second Republican presidential debate, when Brit Hume ... confronted the contenders with a hypothetical “24”-style situation in which torturing suspects is the only way to stop a terrorist attack.
Bear in mind that such situations basically never happen... Last week Gen. David Petraeus, ... circulated an open letter to our forces warning that using torture or “other expedient methods...” is both wrong and ineffective, and that it is important to keep the “moral high ground.”
But aside from John McCain, ... the candidates spoke enthusiastically in favor of torture and against the rule of law. Rudy Giuliani endorsed waterboarding. Mitt Romney declared that he wants accused terrorists at Guantánamo, “where they don’t get the access to lawyers ... My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo.” His remarks were greeted with wild applause.
And torture isn’t the only Bush legacy that seems destined to continue if a Republican becomes the next president. Mr. Bush got us into the Iraq quagmire by conflating Saddam with Al Qaeda... Well, Mr. Romney offers more of that. “There is a global jihadist effort,” he warned... “And they’ve come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda...” Aren’t Sunnis and Shiites killing each other, not coming together? Nevermind.
What about the administration’s state of denial over Iraq, its unwillingness to face up to reality? None of the leading G.O.P. presidential contenders seem any different — certainly not Mr. McCain, who strolled through a Baghdad marketplace wearing a bulletproof vest, accompanied by more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees while attack helicopters flew overhead, then declared that his experience proved there are parts of Baghdad where you can “walk freely.”
Finally, what about the Bush administration’s trademark incompetence? ...[A]ppointing unqualified loyalists to key positions[?] [T]he base doesn’t mind: the Bernie Kerik affair — Mr. Giuliani’s attempt to get his corrupt, possibly mob-connected business partner appointed to head the department of homeland security — hasn’t kept Mr. Giuliani from becoming the apparent front-runner...
What we need to realize is that the infamous “Bush bubble,” the administration’s no-reality zone, extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there’s a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job — and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias.
And the Republican nomination will go either to someone who shares these beliefs, and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.