December 31, 2003

Cast out of the Garden...

Robert Samuelson has an interesting article on Bush-hatred

....In the end, Bush hating says more about the haters than the hated -- and here, too, the parallels with Clinton are strong. This hatred embodies much fear and insecurity. The anti-Clinton fanatics hated him not simply because he occasionally lied, committed adultery or exhibited an air of intellectual superiority. What really infuriated them was that he kept succeeding -- he won reelection, his approval ratings stayed high -- and that diminished their standing. If Clinton was approved, they must be disapproved.

Ditto for Bush. If he succeeded less, he'd be hated less. His fiercest detractors don't loathe him merely because they think he's mediocre, hypocritical and simplistic. What they truly resent is that his popularity suggests that the country might be more like him than it is like them. They fear he's exiling them politically. On one level, their embrace of hatred aims to make others share their outrage; but on another level, it's a self-indulgent declaration of moral superiority....

Dean Esmay once penned one of the all-time-great blogposts, writing a long list of ways that Bush's policies were almost identical to Clinton's. Which isn't surprising, really, because both had their bases under control, and were, and are, appealing to the Center. And, whatever they may privately wish to do, neither of them were or are in a position to take the country where the majority doesn't want to go. Esmay may have exaggerated the similarities, but that he could write such a post at all says a lot.

It says that Bush and Clinton are hated as symbols of other things that people are unhappy about. I think in both cases the biggest grievance is the feeling of the loss of an entitlement. Entitlement to power and influence. Dems were the majority party for 50 years or so, and grew up knowing that that was how Nature intended things to be. Now they feel they've been cast out of the Garden. And Republicans held the White House for 12 years, and could just feel their strength growing and growing....and then came Clinton. They too felt they'd lost something they were entitled to.

I'm no fan of Clinton, but a lot of what was said about him was just daft and stupid. He wasn't trying to turn the country into a socialist hippie commune. And even if he wanted to, he was but a part of a vast political and governmental apparatus notoriously resistant to pressure from presidents--he had no power to do anything of the kind. And I'll make bold to say he was not involved with drug smuggling and knew nothing about the suicide of Vince Foster.

Now it's Bush's turn to be traduced by people driven crazy because they feel diminished and sidelined. No matter how many years he devotes to patient electioneering and persuasion, it's claimed he's bent on destroying democracy. People go on televison to claim free-speech is extinct! People who obviously know nothing about American religious life claim that we are headed for a "theocracy." Billionaires claim that Bush and the "corporate interests" are going to crush "the little guy."

Bush has led the efforts that have liberated more than 50 million souls from hidious tyrannies--but he's "worse than Hitler." The administration pours its efforts into birthing and nurturing democracy and economic freedom and religious tolerance, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but across the Middle East and other backward areas that others considered not worth trying to change. Yet low political hacks call them "the most illiberal people in America."

[If they are using "Liberal" in the recent sense of "crypto-socialist," then it's true. Bush wants to give ordinary people choice over a wide range of things now controlled by bureaucrats. It's an intentional slap in the face to elitists everywhere. And he's unashamedly Christian! What could be more illiberal? -- I.C. Yeah. The word "Liberal" gets shifted deceptively, sometimes within the same sentence. It can mean thinking like Gladstone, or like Michael Harrington. Anyone using it should be required to provide their definition.--JW]

This kind of drift into nuttiness is a great pity, because now, as always, we need a "loyal opposition." Even the best intentioned governments are like those cartoon giants who knock over trees and flatten houses. They need thoughtful criticism, and also need a feeling that blunders are going to cost them votes. But many critics are sidelining themselves into screwiness. And it's also scary, because it was out of the Clinton-hating fever swamp that the Oklahoma City bombers came. Any group of more than a few dozen includes some people who are crazy! And the crazies among the Bush-haters are now being fed a diet of paranoid lies--such as the recent claim that Bush caused the Iran earthquake!

Posted by John Weidner at December 31, 2003 10:14 AM
Weblog by John Weidner