TNR's Jason Zengerle remarks on something I've noticed for a while, too. Fox News' bucolic Bill O'Reilly has slowly morphed into something of an Iraq skeptic. He compares this chunk of O'Reilly latest "Talking points memo" to Walter Cronkite's Ho Chi Minh-loving hymn from 1968.
Iraq should be a lesson learned. We cannot ever again put American boots on the ground in a hostile Arab country. Iraq was an optional war. There will always be or there were other ways, I should say, of removing Saddam.
This isn't the first time O'Reilly's dumped on the Iraq war, but it's the first time he used rhetoric that would drive him crazy if it came from, say, Al Franken.
I'm not an expert on what Cronkite's beliefs were before the "mired in stalemate" broadcast, but O'Reilly's crisis of faith is a microcosm of a larger conservative trend. Guys like O'Reilly (or like the pretzels-and-beer Reagan Democrat archetype he wants to represent) never had any interest in the grand goals of the Iraq war. Rebuilding the Middle East, creating a "viral" democracy that would topple tyrannies from Tripoli to Tehran—that wasn't the reason they backed the war. They backed it because they wanted to bring the hammer down on a Middle Eastern country, to wipe those smiles off their faces after 9/11. They also wanted to piss off the wimpy leftists and liberals who opposed the war. The sight of Susan Sarandon locking arms with Berkeley social science majors was more than enough to motivate O'Reilly types into backing, hell, whatever they were marching against. (Of course, you have to consider how many of the original anti-warriors would have backed a war initiatied by Bill Clinton, and were driven to oppose it by hearing O'Reilly, Bush et al argue for it every night on TV.)