Richard Perle plays make-believe

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.