February 2, 2004 issue Copyright Â© 2004 The American Conservative âImagine these startling headlines with the nation at war in the Pacific six months after Dec. 7, 1941: âNo Signs of Japanese Involvement in Pearl Harbor Attack! Faulty Intelligence Cited; Wolfowitz: Mistakes Were Made.â Or how about an equally disconcerting World War II headline from the European theater: âGerman Army Not Found in France, Poland, Admits President; Rumsfeld: âOops!â, Powell Silent; âBring âEm On,â Says Defiant FDR.â It seems to me that when there is reason to go to war, it should be self-evident. The Secretary of State should not need to convince a skeptical world with satellite photos of a couple of Toyota pickups and a dumpster. And faced with a legitimate casus belli, it should not be hard to muster an actual constitutional declaration of war. Now in the absence of a meaningful Iraqi role in the 9/11 attack and the mysterious disappearance of those fearsome Weapons of Mass Destruction, there might be some psychic satisfaction to be had in saying, âI told you so!â But it sure isnât doing my career as a talk-show host any good. The criterion of self-evidence was only one of dozens of objections I raised before the elective war in Iraq on my afternoon drive-time talk show on KFYI in Phoenix. Many of the other arguments are familiar to readers of The American Conservative. But the case for war was a shape-shifter, skillfully morphing into a new rationale as quickly as the old one failed to withstand scrutiny. For a year before the war, I scrambled to keep up with the latest incarnations of the neocon case. Most were pitifully transparent and readily exposed. (Besides the aluminum tubes and the trailers that had Bush saying, âGotcha,â does anyone remember those death-dealing drones? Never have third-world, wind-up, rubber-band, balsa-wood airplanes instilled so much fear in so many people.) Still, my management didnât like my being out of step with the presidentâs parade of national hysteria, and the war-fevered spectators didnât care to be told they were suffering illusions. So after three years, I was replaced on my primetime talk show by the Frick and Frack of Bushophiles, two giggling guys who think everything our tongue-tied president does is âMost excellent, dude!â I have been relegated to the later 7â10 p.m. slot, when most people, even in a congested commuting market like Phoenix, are already home watching TV. Why did this happen? Why only a couple of months after my company picked up the option on my contract for another year in the fifth-largest city in the United States, did it suddenly decide to relegate me to radio Outer Darkness? The answer lies hidden in the oil-and-water incompatibility of these two seemingly disconnected phrases: âCriticizing Bushâ and âClear Channel.â Criticizing Bush? Well then, must I be some sort of rug-chewing liberal? Not even close. As a boy, I stood on the grass in a small Arizona town square when Barry Goldwater officially began his 1964 presidential run. And I was there for the last official event of the Goldwater campaign. My job was to recruit and manage my fellow junior-high and high-school conservatives in a phone bank operation, calling supporters to fill up as many buses as possible to help pack the stadiumâa show of strength for the nationâs television viewers. Of course thatâs an insignificant role to play in a presidential campaign, but it was pretty heady stuff for a 14-year-old kid from Flagstaff. I broke with Goldwater in 1976 over his decision to back Gerald Ford instead of Ronald Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination. Ford was a perfectly decent, if ordinary, Republican (who could have taught the big-spending W. Bush a thing or two about the use of the veto!). But I took my conservatism seriously. Reagan was clearly the champion of the conservative cause. Perhaps Iâm just anti-military? No. I am proud of my honorable service and of the Army Commendation Medal I was awarded. I also spent a good deal of time in the 1980s as a member of the Speakers Bureau of High Frontier, promoting Reaganâs Strategic Defense Initiative, a defense policy unlike todayâs in that it was actually designed to defend the American people. I have been a Republican precinct committeeman; my county Republican Party elected me its âMan of the Yearâ in 1988; I have written speeches for conservative candidates and office holders; and I have been employed by statewide and national political organizations and campaigns, including the National Conservative Political Action Committee. Despite my disappointment in Goldwater for not supporting Reagan, I was there when a small band of the faithfulâno more than four or five of usâgathered for a potluck dinner to support the creation of a brand-new public-policy think tank named after âMr. Conservative.â The enterprise blossomed, and I was honored several months ago to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the Goldwater Instituteâs 15th Anniversary Gala. I can assure you then that my criticism of Bush has been on the basis of long-held conservative principles. It begins with respect for the wisdom of the Founders and the Constitutionâs division of power and delegation of authority, and extends to an adherence to the principles of governmental restraint and fiscal prudence. It proved to be a message that was more than a little inconvenient for my employer. Clear Channel Communications, the 800-pound gorilla of the radio business, owns an astonishing 1,200 stations in 50 states, including Newstalk 550 KFYI in Phoenix, where I do the afternoon program â¦ or did until last summer. The principals of Clear Channel, a Texas-based company, have been substantial contributors to George W. Bushâs fortunes since before he became president. In fact, Texas billionaire Tom Hicks can be said to be the man who made Bush a millionaire when he purchased the future presidentâs baseball team, the Texas Rangers. Tom Hicks is now vice chairman of Clear Channel. Clear Channel stations were unusually visible during the war with what corporate flacks now call âpro-troop rallies.â In tone and substance, they were virtually indistinguishable from pro-Bush rallies. Iâm sure the administration, which faced a host of regulatory issues affecting Clear Channel, was not displeased.