When Gerald Ford was sworn in as President upon the resignation of Richard Nixon, he told us that “our long national nightmare is over.” Paul Krugman writes about our current nightmare:
Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been intellectual: we realized early on that this administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent, but spent a long time unable to get others to see the obvious. For others – above all, of course, those Americans risking their lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained – the nightmare has been all too concrete.
Krugman explains how the nightmare is based upon the fradulence of the Bush Administration. In order for it to end, politicians and the media must report the truth, and more politicians must do what John Kerry has done (even if Krugman misstates Kerry’s earlier postion on the war):
So the Bush administration has lost the myths that sustained its mojo, and with them much of its power to do harm. But the nightmare won’t be fully over until two things happen.
First, politicians will have to admit that they were misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots.
It’s a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, telling us how policy was “hijacked” by the Cheney-Rumsfeld “cabal,” it’s hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week.
And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.
So the long nightmare won’t really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn’t we tell the public?