The Republicans need to make good on their disastrous error on Iraq. They are essential to bringing the war to an end with minimal acrimony and relatively little political recrimination. Frankly, they owe the country for the burden they have imposed upon it, and payment is overdue. Let’s just say I won’t be holding my breath for the great change of heart.
Moreover, it will not work. It will not save the GOP in this cycle. They are already too deeply implicated in what has happened. Protestations of independence would be just what you would expect from co-conspirators who want to avoid punishment. When you help someone burn down your house in a fit of hysteria, it will not persuade the immediate witnesses of your innocence, much less worthiness, when you begin pinning all of the blame on the lone arsonist. The witnesses know that you were involved–they saw you setting the fire (in the minds of men, no less). This being Harry Potter season, it occurs to me that suddenly breaking with Bush after years of unending support rings of opportunistically blaming the imperious curse for yielding to the will of the Dark Lord (that would be the other Dark Lord, thank you very much). In any case, the drive towards an “independent policy on the war” is an interesting option, but so many of the candidates have already boxed themselves in with the most outlandish rhetoric about the war (”it’s about Shia and Sunni,” “they will follow us back here,” “we have to stay on offense”) that charting an “independent” course would call forth cries of opportunism and inconstancy. Plus, the truly worrying prospect is that some of these candidates are deadly serious in what they say about Iraq. It may be the one issue they refuse to finesse and the one issue on which they refuse to pander, even in the general election. This is one of the reasons why the eventual GOP nominee is very likely to lose, but for some of them the prospect of losing the election does not trouble them that much. As much as it continues to perplex me, these people actually seem to think they are in the right.
As far as the primaries go, the GOP field is encouraged in any real conviction by the political reality that war support remains considerable among GOP voters. For years, I strained to see signs that this was untrue, that it was all the result of some dastardly trick. These voters couldn’t actually, knowingly believe in all this garbage, could they? Well, yes, actually, they could and still do.