Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rewriting History

Now playing: Ben Folds - The Last Polka
via FoxyTunes In a recent ghost-written essay for the journal Foreign Affairs, Rudy Giuliani said the following:

"America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War. … Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America."
The whole essay has already gotten all of the criticism it deserves from people much more knowledgeable than I am on foreign policy. But I wanted to point out this excerpt from Giuliani's ridiculous essay in light of a speech that our illustrious President gave today at the VFW convention:

"Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left," Bush told members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, at their convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

"Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens, whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields,' " the president said.

There are differences, of course. Giuliani says "Many historians say," while Bush chooses "[T]here is a legitimate debate." Giuliani speaks of dire consequences while Bush speaks of an unmistakable legacy. But they're really saying the same thing, and that thing is utterly insane. It leads me to only one conclusion.

Bush and Giuliani both have parts of history that they'd love to rewrite. Giuliani has been trying desperately (and, depressingly, successfully) to rewrite the history of 9/11, positioning himself as a hero who did no wrong, and who in fact stood proud guard over Ground Zero until the last rescue worker had left. Bush has been trying to rewrite the history of why we went to Iraq, why we stayed in Iraq, why we escalated troop levels in Iraq, and why we should be there indefinitely. Both of those revisions are bound to fail. So what do they do? Simple. In a classic Rovian move, they start to revise history that had nothing to do with them.

Remember in 2004 and 2006 when Rove had the GOP start spending all kinds of money in solidly blue states to make everyone think that the swing states were already locked up for the Republicans? It worked in 2004, but failed miserably in 2006. Well, Giuliani and Bush are doing the same thing. In talking about the controversy that exists over Vietnam (ed. note: it really doesn't exist), both Giuliani and Bush are taking their own revisions of history as givens. They're allocating their rhetorical resources to something that makes no sense, to make us think that they've already won their own battles.

In Giuliani's case, that 9/11-fresh sheen still hasn't worn off, so he's unlikely to be called on his lies and revisionism. But if this is an example of the Bush we're likely to see in the post-Rove era, trying badly to employ Rovian tactics, then if I might borrow a phrase, I hope he bring[s] it on.