Whose credibility gap?

What’s behind the dishonest claims that the Jessica Lynch rescue was staged and the unsupported assertions that the Bush administration lied about WMD in Iraq? The obvious answer — that the left wants to discredit President Bush — is not wrong. However, I think it goes deeper than that. For decades, the left’s real agenda has been to curb U.S. power by discrediting the individuals and institutions who exercise it. Vietnam “taught” a generation of liberals that our government cannot be trusted or believed when it attempts to exercise power abroad (at home, it’s different — here the government can be trusted to run vast chunks of the economy, such as the health care sector). In reality, as I pointed out here, most of the serious lying during the Vietnam era was done by the left which, for example, portrayed the brutal Stalinst Ho Chi Minh as an agrarian reformer. But no matter. For the left, it is an article of faith that the exercise of U.S. power in pursuit of our national interests (as opposed to purely humanitarian goals or the interests of the Congressional Black Caucus in Haiti) can only lead to no good, and to attempts by the government to conceal the absence of good.
Recent history, however, has not been kind to this orthodoxy. The military, supported by our intelligence services, has achieved one stunning success after another, and no “credibility gap” has emerged with respect to government pronouncements. Instead, it is the liberal press and other likeminded critics who now lack credibility, as the predicted and reported “quagmires” never seem to materialze. As a result, public opinion polls show enormous respect for our military and growing trust for the government as a whole, at least in the realm of foreign policy.
To the left, this must seem like a near death experience. Little could be more threatening to 1960s era liberals than the national unlearning of the “lessons” of Vietnam. For a Robert Sheer, this is the same sort of dagger to the heart that 1960s feminists feel when their daughters reject their brand of feminism as misguided at best and, at worst, incomprehensible. Hence, the desperate attempts by the left to find something, anything, that will cause the public to stop respecting the military and stop believing the government. The risk, of course, is that the dishonesty inherent in these efforts will only widen the left’s credibility gap. But, with the way things are going, a high stakes gamble is probably the smart play if you’re an aging leftist.


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