So whose books were more cooked -- Enron's accounts of its financial doings or the administration's prewar reports on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?
Enron's books didn't lack for detail. They were simply and deliberately fictitious. They documented all manner of energy sales and swaps that in fact never transpired but that had to be conjured up retrospectively to explain how Enron's apparent assets and profits were so dazzling.
The problem with socialism, noted Oscar Wilde, that most social of socialists, was that it took "too many evenings." It's the left that's always been committed to the permanence of politics, to continual deliberation and decision-making. Conservatism, by contrast, promises fewer evenings lost by leaving more decisions to the market and fewer to the realm of political choice. Part of conservatism's appeal is that now and then, in the lives of ordinary people, there's an end to politics, or at least periodic vacations.
Economists are admitting to confusion, always a bad sign. The American economy has entered "a baffling twilight zone," writes Robert J. Samuelson. "People yearn for clarity and confidence, while the new stagnation provides mainly uncertainty and contradiction."
I know, I know: Reagan was our first president to proclaim government the problem, to cut taxes massively on the rich, to deliberately create a deficit so immense that the government's impoverishment did indeed become a problem. He waged a war of dubious merit and clear illegality in Central America; he pandered to the most bigoted elements in American society.
The United States would be a far better place had he not been elected.
I. THE LOGIC OF MOBILIZATION. "Events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision," the president said in beginning his Monday night de facto declaration of war. The only decision that mattered, however -- that of going to war -- was being made nowhere near Iraq but right in the White House. That is, of course, the logic of preemptive war.
Except it was strikingly clear from the president's own speech that the war is anything but preemptive. Preemption presupposes an imminent threat, and if Iraq actually posed an imminent threat, our government would not be giving Saddam Hussein & Sons a 48-hour advance notice that we were about to attack them. This is, rather, a preventive war, in which the threat from Iraq is something we must gauge in advance.