Which brings me to a piece I want to quote almost in its entirety. I ran across it about a week ago in the comments section of a Crooked Timber post, and I'm still struck by its eloquence. The usual lefty response to the "you want America to fail" charge is to say "do not," which is only appropriate, since the vast majority of liberals see America skidding into a quicksand of failure and want to stop the slide. But Tad Brennan (no relation) started from the premise of "actually, yes, I was hoping for a failure," and then laid out a plain, simple case for why that attitude was not only rational but morally defensible.
Quoted text begins:
This morning [1/31], mixed with my relief that yesterday’s death-toll in Iraq wasn’t higher, and my joy over the amazing demonstration of people-power, I was ashamed to detect in myself a trace of disappointment that things had not gone worse. Hoping for failure? Isn’t that clear evidence that I hate America, or am just deeply irrational? Well, I can rule out America-hating—maybe there are some cartoon lefties who hate our country, but I’ve never been one of them. So how could it be rational for me to harbor even a fraction of a wish for a disaster, when everything I hold dearest—the future of my country, of my children, of democratic ideals—is tied up with the success of democracy in Iraq?
How could it ever be rational to wish for a car-crash, when you and the things you love are riding in the car? Easy. If you are strapped into a car and a notorious drunk-driver is at the wheel, it is perfectly rational to hope he crashes before he gets out of your drive-way, in order to avoid an even more catastrophic crash on the highway. It is perfectly rational to hope that your own car will suffer a minor embarrassing crash, so that you and your friends can wrestle the keys out of his hands and avoid a major crash that will total the car and kill all its occupants.
Bush is a serial drunk-driver. I have watched in horror as he has lurched from one hit-and-run to another, leaving victims in his wake—spending like a drunken sailor, impoverishing my grandchildren for decades to come with his deficits, lying about WMD before, during and after the invasion, turning decent US soldiers into torturers and deviants at Abu Ghraib, ruining America’s reputation overseas for a generation. After a close and bitter election he is even more drunk on power and arrogance, and I am horrified at the carnage he may create next. I keep waiting for sober voices to take the keys away, but his enablers are always there to deny that there are any problems, to claim that actually that screeching plunge into the ditch was part of the plan all along. So his cronies egg him on, making him more drunk, more reckless, and more dangerous.
And so I’m left hoping for some small catastrophe—please God make it a small one—that will still be big enough to sober everyone up, to make them realize how dangerous this drunk-driver is. It would have been terrible if things had gone badly yesterday—but less terrible than if Bush’s enablers use this minor triumph to justify lurching into Iran, or destroying Social Security, or attacking gays, or invading Pakistan, or whatever insane scheme these people will come up with next.
Yes, you Bush-lovers, you won the election, and for another few years there’s no way for me to wrestle the keys out of his hands. But please, for the sake of the country that we both love, don’t keep lying about the road-kill he has left behind. Try to keep him from running down any more innocent victims. Don’t feed his arrogance by pretending that every lying change of rationale was part of the plan all along. Use his many documented failures to rein in his ungodly ambitions, for the good of the country we all love. When you can admit Bush’s failures along with America’s successes, and not follow him blindly into disaster after disaster, then my heartfelt hopes for America’s success will not have to be mixed with a conflicted hope for Bush’s failure.
-- Tad Brennan, February 4, 2005