We are, as every generation, inseparable from our own time.
Thus is our perspective, inevitably that of the explorer looking into the wrong end of the telescope.
But even accounting for our myopia, it’s hard to imagine there have been many elections more important than this one, certainly not in non-presidential years.
And so we look at the verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein yesterday, and, with the very phrase “October, or November, Surprise” now a part of our vernacular, and the chest-thumping coming from so many of the Republican campaigners today, each of us must wonder about the convenience of the timing of his conviction and sentencing.
But let us give history and coincidence the benefit of the doubt—let’s say it’s just “happened” that way—and for a moment not look into the wrong end of the telescope.
Let’s perceive instead the bigger picture:
Saddam Hussein, found guilty in an Iraqi court.
Who can argue against that?
He is officially, what the world always knew he was: a war criminal.
Mr. Bush, was this imprimatur, worth the cost of 2,832 American lives, and thousands more American lives yet to be lost?
Is the conviction of Saddam Hussein the reason you went to war in Iraq?
Or did you go to war in Iraq because of the weapons of mass destruction that did not exist?
Or did you go to war in Iraq because of the connection between Iraq and al-Qaida that did not exist?
Or did you go to war in Iraq to break the bonds of tyranny there, while installing the mechanisms of tyranny here?
Or did you go to war in Iraq because you felt the need to wreak vengeance against somebody, anybody?
Or did you go to war in Iraq to contain a rogue state which, months earlier, your own administration had declared had been fully contained by sanctions?
Or did you go to war in Iraq to keep gas prices down?
How startling it was, sir, to hear you introduce oil to your stump speeches over the weekend.
Not four years removed from the most dismissive, the most condescending, the most ridiculing denials of the very hint at, as Mr. Rumsfeld put it, this “nonsense.”
There you were, campaigning in Colorado, in Nebraska, in Florida, in Kansas -- suddenly turning this ‘unpatriotic idea’ into a platform plank.
"You can imagine a world in which these extremists and radicals got control of energy resources," you told us. "And then you can imagine them saying, 'We're going to pull a bunch of oil off the market to run your price of oil up unless you do the following.'"
Having frightened us, having bullied us, having lied to us, having ignored and rewritten the Constitution under our noses, having stayed the course, having denied you’ve stayed the course, having belittled us about "timelines" but instead extolled "benchmarks," you’ve now resorted, sir, to this?
We must stay in Iraq to save the $2 gallon of gas?
Mr. President, there is no other conclusion we can draw as we go to the polls tomorrow.
Sir, you have been making this up as you went along.
This country was founded to prevent anybody from making it up as they went along.
Those vaunted Founding Fathers of ours have been so quoted up, that they appear as marble statues: like the chiseled guards of China, or the faces on Mount Rushmore. But in fact they were practical people and the thing they obviously feared most was a government of men and not laws.
They provided the checks and balances for a reason.
No one man could run the government the way he saw fit -- unless he, at the least, took into consideration what those he governed saw.
A House of Representatives would be the people's eyes.
A Senate would be the corrective force on that House.
An executive would do the work, and hold the Constitution to his chest like his child.
A Supreme Court would oversee it all.
Checks and balances.
Where did that go, Mr. Bush?
And what price did we pay because we have let it go?
Saddam Hussein will get out of Iraq the same way 2,832 Americans have and thousands more.
He’ll get out faster than we will.
And if nothing changes tomorrow, you, sir, will be out of the White House long before the rest of us can say we are out of Iraq.
And whose fault is this?
Not truly yours. You took advantage of those of us who were afraid, and those of us who believed unity and nation took precedence over all else.
But we let you take that advantage.
And so we let you go to war in Iraq to oust Saddam or find non-existant weapons or avenge 9/11 or fight terrorists who only got there after we did or as cover to change the fabric of our Constitution or for lower prices at The Texaco or…?
There are still a few hours left before the polls open, sir. There are many rationalizations still untried.
And whatever your motives of the moment, we the people have, in true good faith and with the genuine patriotism of self-sacrifice (of which you have shown you know nothing), we have let you go on making it up as you went along.
Unchecked and unbalanced.