THE BLOG
06/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McClellan and Second Thoughts

My first introduction to the Second Thoughts crowd was in 1989 when I attended a conference at Krakow's Jagiellonian University and took a seat in the audience near Fawn Hall. Yes, that Fawn Hall: the secretary who dutifully shredded compromising documents for Oliver North during the Iran-Contra days. She was part of a tour put together by those rowdy former editors of radical Ramparts magazine, Peter Collier and David Horowitz. The delegation included many former leftists like Joshua Muravchik, the Young People's Socialist Leaguer turned American Enterprise Institute think-tanker. Where Fawn Hall fit in, I'm still not sure. Perhaps Horowitz just needed arm candy. (Hall was, after all, Playboy's "Sex Star of 1987.")

Collier and Horowitz, who must have suffered serious intellectual whiplash when they traded their Che berets for Gipper pins, had brought their troupe to the Polish city of Krakow in order to teach the Solidarity government-to-be a thing or two about political about-faces. Alas, the Solidarity crowd just drank it up. Within a year, Poland would swerve from disintegrating communism to a labor-union-supported government to shock-therapy neo-liberalism. Collier and Horowitz can't take credit for this transformation. It would have happened even without their intervention. But it seemed, at the time, that everyone was having second thoughts: neo-Marxists were becoming neo-cons, Yippies were becoming Yuppies. And Collier and Horowitz were organizing Second Thoughts conferences left and right (well, mostly right) until, finally, the fad died out in the Clinton years and they had to make a (dis)honest living doing something else, like putting together an Anti-Chomsky Reader and rooting out supposed liberal bias in academia.

When I read of What Happened, Scott McClellan's literary stab in the back of the Bush administration, I thought, "Hey, why should the right have all the fun?" It's time to put together a Second Thoughts conference of our own.

After all, George W. Bush has probably pushed more people to the left than Noam Chomsky. The new generation of Second Thoughts would include all the disillusioned military brass, such as Army General Eric Shinseki and Marine General Anthony Zinni. Then there are the conservative thinkers, like Francis Fukuyama and Larry Diamond, who became disgusted with the political incompetence of U.S. policy in Iraq. Let's also throw in Cold Warriors George P. Shultz and Henry Kissinger who now support a world without nuclear weapons. Let's also salt the delegation with former high-level appointees like former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who blasted Bush's economic and foreign policy. David Kuo and John DiIulio exposed the faith-based initiatives as bunkum. Matthew Dowd, Lawrence Wilkerson, and Paul Pillar all fell away from the Church of Bush. And let's add Media Matters for America president David Brock, who was blinded by the right, fell from his high horse, and now sees the light.

Okay, I know, they're not all progressives now. They haven't become critics of U.S. empire like Chalmers Johnson (who was once himself one of the more conservative scholars of Asia). But as we approach the 2008 elections, let's go big tent and put together a star-studded group to tour the swing states. Let's also send these new Second Thoughters to college campuses in a political version of Scared Straight. Now given the pallid new name of the Juvenile Awareness Program, the program sends ex-cons to schools to scare kids away from doing drugs, stealing cars, and killing people. In our version of shock therapy, Scottie McClellan and David Brock and Eric Shinseki would warn kids not to listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Bill O'Reilly or read Ann Coulter. Otherwise, they too might one day be party to murder abroad (like Iraq) or theft at home (like the Bush tax policy).

Maybe we could even lure Fawn Hall to join the tour. After her trip to Krakow, she married the former manager of the Doors and survived cocaine addiction. More importantly, she survived the intellectual drugs that Collier, Horowitz, and Muravchik were dispensing. I'm sure she's ready for a whole new set of second thoughts.

Original text here.