The United States is in the midst of the certainty crisis. Time magazine is disturbed by "The blinding glare of his certainty," as one headline referred to Bush's unwillingness to go wobbly on Iraq. "A questionable certainty" was the headline in the Los Angeles Times. "This kind of certainty worries Bush's critics," noted U.S. News & World Report.As was commonplace at the time, having doubts about going to war or about the evidence used to argue for it was considered an illegitimate, unserious stance. The "serious" discussion of whether or not to enter a second war involved mocking those who opposed it as peaceniks or dunderheads:
Meanwhile, among the smart set, Hamlet-like indecision has become the intellectual fashion. The liberal columnist E. J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post that he is uncomfortable with the pro and antiwar camps. He praised the doubters and raised his colors on behalf of "heroic ambivalence." The New York Times, venturing deep into the territory of self-parody, ran a full-page editorial calling for "still more discussion" on whether or not to go to war.No, the administration push to war was considered superior precisely because Bush was just so damn determined about it:
Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion--that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed--but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis. And they want to see their leaders paying homage to this style. Accordingly, many Bush critics seem less disturbed by his position than by his inability to adhere to the rules of genteel intellectual manners.We are then treated to paragraphs of explanation of Bush's true genius. That, too, was The Villager Stance. Future columns would ridicule Hans Blix for discrediting administration claims on "this or that weapons system" (he was, of course, right) or dismiss Joe Wilson's reports that the supposed stories of yellowcake uranium were simply not true.
David Brooks, meanwhile, has enjoyed 10 more long years of being fantastically, destructively wrong in print. All of the war pundits have. Mocking those who were right and praising those who were proved to have been wrong—or, indeed, liars—for at least having moral clarity in their wrongness was the stock in trade then, and remains it now, and not one of them has suffered repercussions for it. The deficits being complained about now were the ones demanded then, in order to not-pay for the not-quite-war that was not-quite-necessary in the first place. The same pillars of wisdom that brought America's most expensive fiasco to date have now pivoted their attention to Iran, and their near-identical musings on the necessity for that conflict have not suffered in credibility one whit as a result of their discrediting on the last one. It still remains the case that being flat-out, unambiguously wrong is not a tenth of the crime that being right might be, and to this day there are still rubes that believe Iraq had something to do with 9/11, because some crook with a pen somewhere said so.
So then, happy anniversary. Now that the 10-year mark is upon us, we can honestly say that the Washington pundit class, their editors, their papers, the cable news shows, and all the other detritus of entitled power have learned not one goddamn thing from then until now. And Paul Ryan is resolute on his budget, even if the math is so horribly fouled up that it could never, ever work, and those folks who don't believe pollution causes weather shifts just seem so damn sure, which surely counts for more than the silly data might, and so long as there is someone to write the checks, being right or being wrong isn't something anybody in Washington really thinks about.