Psssst! The Republicans and Chinese Communists have something in common.
They both much preferred the foreign policy of George W. Bush to that of Barack Obama.
It’s one of the many fascinating revelations offered in Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Uses of American Power.
The author is David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.
Early in 2011, Sanger had lunch at the Central Party School outside Beijing. This is where the party’s leadership debates questions that are thought too controversial to air in public.
A retired general in the People’s Liberation Army sat down next to Sanger and, in a relaxed moment of candor, said:
“I sat through many meetings of the People’s Liberation Army in the 80s and 90s where we tried to imagine what your military forces would look like in 10 to 20 years.
“But frankly, we never thought that you would spend trillions of dollars and so much time tied down in Afghanistan and the Middle East. We never imagined that as a choice you would make.”
And, writes Sanger: “Not so secretly, the Chinese were delighted by the Bush-era wars. The longer the United States was bogged down trying to build democracies in foreign lands, the less capable it was of competing in China’s backyard.
“But now that America was emerging from a lost decade in the Middle East, the Chinese began to ask: How should China respond? With cooperation, confrontation, or something in-between?”
And the Chinese were equally thrilled that the United States had squandered so much of its treasury during the eight-year Bush Presidency.
In the decade following 9/11, the Pentagon went on an unprecedented spending binge. The defense budget grew by 67%, to levels 50% higher than it had been per average year during the Cold War.
According to Sanger: “An estimate [the New York Times] put together for the tenth anniversary of the [9/11] attacks suggested that the United States had spent at least $3.3 trillion.”
These monies had gone on
- securing the country;
- invading and trying to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq; and
- caring for wounded American soldiers.
“Put another way,” writes Sanger, “for every dollar al-Qaeda spent destroying the World Trade Center and attacking the Pentagon, America had spent $6.6 million in response.
“The annual Pentagon budget of $700 billion was equivalent to the combined spending of the next twenty largest military powers….
“The world had come to expect that America would underwrite global security, regardless of the cost. Obama was determined to change that mind-set.”
In short, America became financially and militarily vulnerable during the Presidency of George W. Bush.
And this flatly contradicts the standard Republican line: Obama is a weak President–and is betraying us to the (pick one or both) Muslims/Communists.
It also speaks volumes that the two most important members of the George W. Bush administration declined to attend the Republican National Convention held August 27-30.
That, of course, meant former President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
And why was that? Perhaps it’s because polls show that a majority of Americans continued
- To blame Bush for lying the country into a needless, bloody and expensive war with Iraq.
- To blame him for presiding over the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.
- To see Dick Cheney as the Dr. Strangelovian manipulator of George W. Bush.
Even former President George H.W. Bush said he wouldn’t attend the convention.
It’s possible that Bush, Sr., didin’t want to serve as a reminder that his son left the White House with the lowest popularity rating of any modern President.
And that was just fine with those planning to attend the convention–especially its nominee-to-be.
They wanted to do with George W. Bush what Nikita Khrushchev and his fellow Communists did with the embarrassing Joseph Stalin: Bury him far from public view.
Romney wanted to use the convention the way Adolf Hitler used the Nuremberg rallies–to attack his enemies and glorify himself.
He didin’t want the viewing audience to be reminded that the United States sharply declined in wealth and prestige during the eight-year reign of George W. Bush and a Republican Congress.
Romney and his fellow conventioneers also didn’t want to remind the country of something else: That Obama had spent most of his own Presidency trying to undo the harm his predecessor did, in both foreign and domestic policy.
Thus the Republican party found itself torn.
On one hand, its leaders wanted to claim that Barack Obama was the worst President in the history of the Republic.
On the other hand, they knew that most Americans continued to view the last Republican President in just that way.