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Tilting at Windmills

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February 20, 2009

RICHARD PERLE PLAYS MAKE-BELIEVE.... Neocon mastermind Richard Perle spoke in D.C. yesterday, and argued, with a straight face, that neoconservatives don't actually exist. And if they did exist, they wouldn't deserve the blame for the Bush administration's foreign policy failures.

Dana Milbank, who was on hand for Perle's remarks, said the experience of listening to all of this was like "falling down the rabbit hole."

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? "My name was on it because I signed up for the study group," Perle explained. "I didn't approve it. I didn't read it."

Mm-hmm. And the two letters to the president, signed by Perle, giving a "moral" basis to Middle East policy and demanding military means to remove Saddam Hussein? "I don't have the letters in front of me," Perle replied.

Right. And the Bush administration National Security Strategy, enshrining the neoconservative themes of preemptive war and using American power to spread freedom? "I don't know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements," Perle maintained. "My guess is he didn't."

It was apparently quite a performance, which literally drew laughter when Perle insisted, "I've never advocated attacking Iran." He added that he doesn't "accept" the notion that there's even a "neoconservative school of thought," and said his book, "An End to Evil," is actually a text devoted to realism. "There's hardly an ideology in that book," Perle said.

As Milbank reminds us, the book argues, "There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust. This book is a manual for victory." No, no ideology there.

Apparently, at the end of yesterday's event, the moderator thanked Perle for being there: "You certainly kept us all entertained."

And that, I'm afraid, is perhaps the only option still available to the rest of us: laughing at Richard Perle for being such a transparent joke.

Steve Benen 9:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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I think Obama should reach across the aisle and offer Perle a job at the State Department.

Posted by: Sfsmskater on February 20, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

The Prince of Darkness's NeoCon shell produces "Perle's of Revision." He is the Dick of all Dicks, even topping Cheney. "An End to Evil" would be his appropriate epitaph.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline on February 20, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Well, this is a sea change.

Those who were perenially dubbed serious are now unable to speak without provoking snickers.

Everything is as it should be.

Posted by: inkadu on February 20, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Neocons have been delivering the same message since Nixontimes, before they even had the name. Black is white, up is down, night is day, who you gonna believe, this well-modulated expert with an expensive suit and an Ivy League sinecure, or your own highly flawed intelligence? Only difference is that now instead of writing the future, they've descended to trying to rewrite their own miserable history. And it will work, in some circles. Just wait for the definitive non-Neocon (weren't they named by Irving Kristol?) nonhistory, due from Regnery next year.

Hope people liked this Milbank piece better than the one about Plouffe, which precedes it on the Post's video file. Very funny, no less accurate, and there is a certain resemblance between the two events, with one difference: Perle did his rewrite in public. We still don't know what Plouffe said.

Posted by: ericfree on February 20, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

In other news Perle is having himself airbrushed from all photos from the Bush administration.

Posted by: art hackett on February 20, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't Mr. Perle a wanted war criminal?

If not, he should be.

Posted by: ckelly on February 20, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

hiding from history -- a touch of mortal consciousness; tho cartoonish, like his view of the world.

these intellectual sociopaths are quite entertaining.

but anthony hopkins already showed us that...

Posted by: neill on February 20, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Once again the self delusion is simply mind boggling. By next week Perle will surely claim that he's never been on television and that Paul Wolfowitz has been his wife since 2000.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on February 20, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

If Perle had kept talking long enough, he probaby would have gone on to prove he he himself doesn't exist. He's the founder of a whole new school of philosophy- reverse solipsism.

Posted by: Tim H on February 20, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Well paying speaking engagements for neocons and former Bushies must be hard to come by these days. He must be working on new material for his stand-up routine. Otherwise, the bookings would pretty much dry up completely.

Posted by: jcricket on February 20, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Some classic comments on this thread.

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

Is Perle on crack? Has he never heard of Irving Kristol, Bill Kristol, the self-described originators and perpetrators of the neoconservative school of thought? My money says he's sat down with them for dinner.

...well, I bothered to look it up, and chances are they've not only eaten together but shared a bath.

"All in the Neocon Family"

Posted by: trex on February 20, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Mr Perle? That tiny speck in your rear view mirror is something we like to call reality.

Posted by: JoeW on February 20, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

This gives everyone an idea of what it would have been like around 1946-47, had the Allies made peace with the Germans in say 1944, following the assassination of Hitler, without occupying Germany or requiring that there be any war crimes trials or other actions against the Nazis. I can see Josef Goebbels saying all this, and doing it with as straight a face as Perle manages.

The only thing is I am sure Dana Milbank was the only Villager there who wasn't nodding his/her head in agreement with this scummy propagandist.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 20, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Richard Perle can not be a human being because he doesn't have a nanometer of moral fiber in his physical frame and the organs enabling humans to feel empathy and a sense of shame are also absent.

The man has proven time and again that not a single sentence he utters can be taken in good faith. His wheeling and dealing is not only self serving but often utterly corrupt. What does it take for someone like him to kicked off the public discours?

Posted by: SRW1 on February 20, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm. Classic con man approach.

Posted by: Bob M on February 20, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Now I get it. Perle is finally letting us in on the joke, there were never any Neocons, that was all just a well orchestrated comedy routine. They didn't really mean to send us into a trillion dollar money pit and kill thousands in Iraq - we were just supposed to laugh at them. Damn!

Posted by: Capt Kirk on February 20, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

For Pearle, though, as well as millions of other unhinged Americans, "There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust" is a statement of fact. They can honestly see no ideology in it; it is simply a matter of tribal survival. You can't argue with a sick mind...

Posted by: dr sardonicus on February 20, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Mr Perle? That tiny speck in your rear view mirror is something we like to call reality.

I'm holding out for it being a hellhound. And I hope that bad boy is closing fast.

Posted by: Blue Girl on February 20, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Right. And in other news, Hitler's ghost claims no knowledge whatsoever of Mein Kampf...."

Posted by: Steve W. on February 20, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? "My name was on it because I signed up for the study group," Perle explained. "I didn't approve it. I didn't read it."

I've occasionally seen the name "Richard Perle" and the phrase "public intellectual" appear in the same sentence. Taking Perle's claim at face value, I'd ask what kind of idiot allows his name to be placed on a public report that he hasn't even read, put out by a study group he was the leader of, and doesn't protest? A neoconservative idiot, I guess.

Posted by: RSA on February 20, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Should I be scared?

On the one hand, we have Fred Barnes and Richard Perle (who are not totally stupid) making points -- apparently not intentionally laughable -- which are completely divorced from reality.

On the other hand, we have more, uh, emotional conservatives ... well, I'll let Andrew Sullivan describe what those types are saying: "Note here Limbaugh's latest populist excrescence, his description of his opponents as engaging in a kind of coup, or as rapists or murderers and Jihadist beheaders."

Posted by: CMcC on February 20, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

This is worth noting but hardly surprising.

Re-writing history to suit their prejudices underlies every single Neocon policy and every argument they make in favor of that policy. Why shouldn't they apply that technique to themselves now that they have been so widely discredited?

Posted by: tanstaafl on February 20, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

The majority of the posts today, and most days, seem to be just be highlighting what are obviously silly comments from silly people and I wonder if that is what this blog should be.

Posted by: stonemarten on February 20, 2009 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid he's been lying like this since he was a boy.

Posted by: Richard Perle's Mom on February 20, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with ckelly, above: I don't understand why Perle isn't in jail yet.

Even without any Nuremberg considerations, surely his selling influence on foreign affairs matters to Saudi Arabia while "serving" as Bushlet's advisory commission Chairman would seem an open and shut case of criminal influence peddling.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on February 20, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

This is just insane. Do they think they can just airbrush the Project for a New American Century out of history? What do the following names have in common?

Elliott Abrams Richard L. Armitage William J. Bennett

Jeffrey Bergner John Bolton Paula Dobriansky

Francis Fukuyama Robert Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad

William Kristol Richard Perle Peter W. Rodman

Donald Rumsfeld William Schneider, Jr. Vin Weber

Paul Wolfowitz R. James Woolsey Robert B. Zoellick

Ding ding! If you said 'signers of the 1997 letter to President Clinton arguing for a military invasion of Iraq' you are a winner!

And what does this list of largely but not entirely overlapping names come from?

Elliott Abrams Gary Bauer William J. Bennett Jeb Bush

Dick Cheney Eliot A. Cohen Midge Decter Paula Dobriansky Steve Forbes

Aaron Friedberg Francis Fukuyama Frank Gaffney Fred C. Ikle

Donald Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad I. Lewis Libby Norman Podhoretz

Dan Quayle Peter W. Rodman Stephen P. Rosen Henry S. Rowen

Donald Rumsfeld Vin Weber George Weigel Paul Wolfowitz

Can you say 'Signatories to the PNAC Statement of Principles'? I know I can.

I know that back in the 1990s these people only planned to be in power one day and had no idea they would ever be forced from it. But that doesn't erase the fact that they publicly signed a fascistic manifesto and published it on the web.

As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?
Not quite as catchy as 'Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer' but seizing the same Zeitgeist. Between the two lists you can see the entire Neo-Con hierarchy on display. People I had never even heard of like the Kagans and Khalilizad are already on board. The combined propaganda structure that sold us Iraq whether that be the Bush Administration foreign policy team or the media and academic people who infested print and screen were all assembled with a united vision. With one noted exception.

Where's George? Apparently the betting in 1997 was on the smarter Bush, because JEB is right there. That didn't work out so they fell back on W. But you don't have to be a conspiracy buff to figure out that Cheney's appointment to head the VP search team and subsequent choice of himself was all a setup designed to insert this crew into positions at every lever of power.

Even in the heyday of the Administration is was pretty clear that some of the principals including Powell, Rice and Bush himself were not really calling the shots, that instead everything was being run out of the Office of the VP and Rummy's office at the Pentagon. Well these two lists are pretty good evidence that that is true. None of this was about some accidental consensus that had Kristol on the same page as Rumsfield. These guys were organized in advance.

And people who tell you that Cheney and Rumsfeld were not really Neo-Cons can kiss my ass. Because no one put a gun to their heads and made them sign.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on February 20, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

We can also boycott any event he appears at. We can threaten never to donate again to any organization we support that invites him to speak. We can do everything we can think of to kill off his paid speaking appearances. We can sneak into his paid appearances (or walk into unpaid ones) and laugh out loud every time he make one of these stupid statement.

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on February 20, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

What you all don't understand is that "NEOconservative" is a typo. They're actually "LEOconservatives" (as in Strauss). The very convenient typo allows them to state things like "there are no neoconservatives. I am not a neoconservative" etc.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 20, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

"falling down a rabbit hole" is the way I feel when I hear or read about any conservative. They inhabit their own universe and change the laws of its nature according to the way the wind blows...up is down.

Perle demonstrates a latter-day conservative's uncanny ability to deny what is blatantly obvious to everyone else and to blame other for his own mistakes. Whether he's neo or not he represents the dark side of the republican party and he helped create the hard-line conservative ideology that has fractured the country today.

Posted by: CDW on February 20, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

It's Martin Short's "Nathan Thurm" from his old SNL days.

"I'm not being defensive! You're the one who's being defensive! Why is always the other person who's being defensive? Have you ever asked yourself that? Why don't you ask yourself that?"

Posted by: 2Manchu on February 20, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

richard perle; jedi master...."i'm NOT the neocon you're looking for...."

Posted by: dj spellchecka on February 20, 2009 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Richard Perle is attempting to use a Jedi mind trick. ("These are not the droids you're looking for.")

Don't think it's gonna work.

Posted by: labman57 on February 20, 2009 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

They - Perle, Limbaugh, Coulter, Bush, and on and on and on - are clowns. Ridiculous, second rate clowns. Always have been, always will be. Look at them dance! Look at them do funny tricks! Dangerous clowns when they had/were used by power, but now their "clowniness" can be openly laughed at. Freakish freaks who have more in common with snake handlers than...sane human beings. And that's an insult to snake handlers.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on February 20, 2009 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Give him another 5 years and he'll tell us he was part of "the resistance."

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 22, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

I knew Richard Perle during his Scoop Jackson years and later during the Reagan administration. I never agreed with him then, for political and ideological reasons, but I always thought he was sane and sincere (but wrong). Now I think he has either lost his grip or, like many adherents to the busted and discredited Bush-Cheney doctrine, is playing us for fools. In either event, we should ignore him, as well as Kristol, Gaffney, Podhoretz, Wolfowitz, et al., and just be thankful that the American people have elected a sane, rational, sincere, and moral (do you know what that means, Richard P.?) president.

Posted by: Richard (definitely not Perle) on February 22, 2009 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK



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