[Note: This article was brought to my attention by a Chinese reader, who said in his email, “This sounds just like China’s Cultural Revolution.”]
The key point of William Saletan’s brilliant little article is simple: Whatever happens on shrub’s watch, no matter how terrible, it is proof that his policies are working. It is virtually impossible to show that he has ever made a mistake or taken the wrong approach. This is priceless.
In 1999, George W. Bush said we needed to cut taxes because the economy was doing so well that the U.S. Treasury was taking in too much money, and we could afford to give some back to the people who earned it. In 2001, Bush said we needed the same tax cuts because the economy was doing poorly, and we had to return the money so that people would spend and invest it.
Bush’s arguments made the wisdom of cutting taxes unfalsifiable. In good times, tax cuts were affordable. In bad times, they were necessary. Whatever happened proved that tax cuts were good policy. When Congress approved the tax cuts, Bush said they would revive the economy. You’d know that the tax cuts had worked, because more people would be working. Three years later, more people aren’t working. But in Bush’s view, that, too, proves he was right. If more people aren’t working, we just need more tax cuts.
But it’s not just taxes. When it comes to fighting wars, Chimpy McCokeSpoon is proven right no matter what happens on the battlefield. We get attacked and massacred — no problem. It’s a sign the enemy’s running scared! Remember Fallujah?
Three months after the handover, the attacks continue to escalate. Fallujah is completely out of control. Is this failure? No, it’s success. Things are getting even worse because we’re doing even better. Now it’s the January 2005 Iraqi elections, not the June 2004 handover, that’s supposedly inspiring the enemy’s desperation. If we stay the course till January, we’ll turn that corner we thought we’d turned in June. “Yes, it’s getting worse, and the reason it’s getting worse is that they are determined to disrupt the election,” Secretary of State Colin Powell insisted Sunday on This Week. “And because it’s getting worse, we will have to increase our efforts to defeat it.” Bush understands that the resistance is evidence that history is on our side. As he explained Tuesday, the violence is growing “because people are trying to stop the march of freedom.”
If the situation in Iraq improves in the coming weeks, Bush will take credit. If it deteriorates, he’ll take credit for that, too. “Terrorist violence may well escalate as the January elections draw near,” he warned Thursday. “The terrorists know that events in Iraq are reaching a decisive moment. If elections go forward, democracy in Iraq will put down permanent roots, and terrorists will suffer a dramatic defeat.” So take heart. We’ve got ’em right where we want ’em.
I’ll sleep a bit easier tonight, secure in the knowledge that the worse things go in Iraq, the stronger the evidence is that we’re winning.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.