Buckley Says Bush Will Be Judged on Iraq War, Now a "Failure"
Friday 31 March 2006
William F. Buckley Jr., the longtime conservative writer and leader, said George W. Bush's presidency will be judged entirely by the outcome of a war in Iraq that is now a failure.
"Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq," Buckley said in an interview that will air on Bloomberg Television this weekend. "If he'd invented the Bill of Rights it wouldn't get him out of his jam."
Buckley said he doesn't have a formula for getting out of Iraq, though he said "it's important that we acknowledge in the inner councils of state that it (the war) has failed, so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure."
The 80-year-old Buckley is among a handful of prominent conservatives who are criticizing the war. Asked who is to blame for what he deems a failure, Buckley said, "the president," adding that "he doesn't hesitate to accept responsibility."
Buckley called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a longtime friend, "a failed executor" of the war. And Vice President Dick Cheney "was flatly misled," Buckley said. "He believed the business about the weapons of mass destruction."
Buckley, often called the father of contemporary conservatism in America, articulated his beliefs in National Review magazine, which he founded in 1955. His conservatism calls for small government, low taxes and a strong defense. Both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater said they got their inspiration from the magazine.
In the interview, Buckley criticized the so-called neo- conservatives who enthusiastically embraced the Iraq invasion and the spreading of American values around the world.
"The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country," Buckley said.
While praising Bush as "really a conservative," he was critical of the president for allowing expansion of the federal government and never vetoing a spending bill.
The president's "concern has been so completely on the international scope that he can be said to have neglected conservatism" on the fiscal level, Buckley said.
Buckley also offered his perspectives on other recent presidents:
Buckley exalted in what he sees as the conservative success stemming from his call a half century ago in the National Review to "stand athwart history and yell stop."
That, he remembered, was when Marxism was widely considered "an absolute irreversible call of history." The folly of that notion was demonstrated by the demise of communism a decade and a half ago, he said.
Buckley said he had a few regrets, most notably his magazine's opposition to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. "I think that the impact of that bill should have been welcomed by us," he said.