Welcome, Andrew Sullivan readers. Read this.
The Inspector Javert of Trig Palin’s matrilineal line saw fit to respond to this post of mine; later instructing one of his many interns to write that in doing so, Sullivan “twisted the knife on the GOP’s demonization of Obama.” I am sure that an effort was made to twist a knife, but when one seeks to do so, one refrains from choosing the plastic cutlery. Not so Sullivan; it’s par for the course for the Daily Dish to bring its dullest knives to even the most fierce rhetorical gunfights.
Ignoring just about everything else in my post, Sullivan focuses on the following words I done wroted:
The mere fact that Republicans are negotiating with the Obama Administration over legislation does not mean that critiques against the Administration are somehow invalidated. You weren’t making this claim about the supposed invalidity of Democratic critiques of George W. Bush when Democrats were negotiating with him over legislation, were you?
Things immediately go off the rails, because it is at this point that Sullivan begins his “response.” Paragraph one:
Wrong on both counts. No one on the left doubted George W. Bush’s cultural or biographical legtimacy as president. In the first term there were claims of illegitimacy – but on the, er, understandable and technical grounds that he won fewer votes than his opponent, and won via an extremely contentious court case. No one treated the son of a former president as some kind of anti-American or un-American alien, the way Palinites treat Obama. Nonetheless, several Democrats immediately supported his massive tax cut – while no Republicans, in the wake of an Obama landslide – supported a desperately needed stimulus. I do not recall states mulling secession or nullification of federal decisions under the last president.
Regarding George W. Bush’s “cultural or biographical” background, and how it figured into his legitimacy, the fact that the 43rd President was a scion of one of America’s most famous political dynasties, and the eldest son of a former President of the United States was regularly used to argue that the 43rd President would never have gotten where he got to without powerful family connections. There is nothing per se wrong with making this argument, but to imply (heavily) that George W. Bush was “cultural[ly] or biographical[ly]” immune from harsh critiques is a bit rich. To be sure, this problem was not George W. Bush’s alone; just about every President has had his “cultural or biographical” background used against him. But makes it all the more amazing that Sullivan would argue that Bush didn’t experience arguments against him based on his “cultural or biographical” background. (We’ll say nothing of all of the rhetorical cheap shots aimed at the state of Texas during the Bush Presidency; apparently, an entire state merited being sneered at and attacked because its favorite son was a President with whom the sneerers disagreed.)
As to whether the former President was treated as “some kind of anti-American or un-American alien,” do I really have to link to this, this, and this to show how both President Bush and Republicans in general have been compared repeatedly to “some kind of anti-American or un-American alien[s]“? (I presume, for the purposes of this argument, that to have been compared to Hitler and the Nazis is to have been accused of being “some kind of anti-American or un-American alien[s].) Unless I am sorely mistaken, Andrew Sullivan can use Google too, and can find exactly what I found by using it. Queries: Was Sullivan simply too lazy to perform such research? Did it not occur to him to do so? Did Sullivan consciously refraining from performing such research simply because he was afraid that in doing so, it would undermine his claim? The whole world wonders.
Sullivan next whines states that “several Democrats immediately supported [Bush's] massive tax cut – while no Republicans, in the wake of an Obama landslide – supported a desperately needed stimulus.” First off, this is untrue; Arlen Specter (while a Republican), Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins all supported the stimulus. That makes the number of Republicans/Republican-at-the-time-of-the-vote having supported the stimulus, three. Or, to paraphrase Monty Python (and one hopes that Sullivan is paying attention–I am trying to channel both God, and British humor to keep him interested):
And the Lord spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Google and search for the number of Republicans having supported Obama’s stimulus. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.”
I trust that on this matter, at least, things are clear. Moving on from Monty Python, it is worth noting that when President Obama announced his Afghanistan policy–and got attacked for it by the Left–it was Republicans who came to his aid, and offered their full-throated support for the policy. Does this not count as a form of bipartisan cooperation initiated by the Republicans to assist a Democratic President? For that matter, has Sullivan forgotten that the very tax deal he celebrates this week with endless, meaningless, Baghdad Bob-ish, nauseating frequency, featuring one ludicrous “meep, meep” after another, is a tax deal that was crafted in negotiations with Republicans? That Republicans are supporting this deal, and are trying to save it–and the Obama Administration’s prestige–in the face of Democratic assaults so virulent that F-bombs have been thrown the White House’s way, and House Democrats have even stated that they will not bring the tax package for a vote? Why is all of this not equivalent to some Democrats supporting a Bush tax cut? Did these facts somehow get in the way of Sullivan’s desperate screed, and make it inconvenient to mention them? Is that why he elided them so completely?
As to Sullivan’s claim that he does not recall “states mulling secession” during the Bush Administration, I remind him of this, this, this, and this (it even has a Wikipedia page), all of which either outright stated, subtly implied, or addressed secessionist dreams in the wake of the 2004 Presidential election. There was also this, which is not secessionist, but which is so blisteringly contemptuous towards anyone and everyone who disagree with the author’s political views, that it may as well openly call for secession. An excerpt:
. . . I grew up in Missouri and most of my family voted for Bush, so I am going to be the one to say it: The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well, almost 58 million—my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)
Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. There used to be a kind of hand-to-hand fight on the frontier called a “knock-down-drag-out,” where any kind of gouging, biting, or maiming was considered fair. The ancestors of today’s red-state voters used to stand around cheering and betting on these fights. When the forces of red and blue encountered one another head-on for the first time in Kansas Territory in 1856, the red forces from Missouri, who had been coveting Indian land across the Missouri River since 1820, entered Kansas and stole the territorial election. The red news media of the day made a practice of inflammatory lying—declaring that the blue folks had shot and killed red folks whom everyone knew were walking around. The worst civilian massacre in American history took place in Lawrence, Kan., in 1863—Quantrill’s raid. The red forces, known then as the slave-power, pulled between 150 and 200 unarmed men from their beds on a Sunday morning and slaughtered them, many in front of their wives and children.* The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are—they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence. The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.
Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don’t believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.
Next, they tell you that you are the best of a bad lot (humans, that is) and that as bad as you are, if you stick with them, you are among the chosen. This is flattering and reassuring, and also encourages you to imagine the terrible fates of those you envy and resent. American politicians ALWAYS operate by a similar sort of flattery, and so Americans are never induced to question themselves. That’s what happened to Jimmy Carter—he asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted. The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.
Third, and most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor. But by this time you don’t need much encouragement—you’ve put all your eggs into the ignorance basket, and really, some kind of miraculous fruition (preferably accompanied by the torment of your enemies, and the ignorant always have plenty of enemies) is your only hope. If you are sufficiently ignorant, you won’t even know how dangerous your policies are until they have destroyed you, and then you can always blame others.
The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey—workers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now—Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don’t share those same qualities, don’t know which end is up. Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power. Must everyone?
Were these secessionist dreams serious? No, not really. But then, of course, neither has secessionist talk during the Obama Administration been serious. There are cranks and lunatics out there, and because of their crankiness and lunacy, they get huge megaphones from the media to encourage and foster our Thunderdome brand of politics. This happens in just about every administration, Republican, or Democratic. Jane’s Law, we may remember, was crafted during the Bush Administration. To consider these crankish, lunatic arguments representative of an entire mainstream political movement is at best a dangerous proposition, and at worst, just flat-out absurd. The problem with Sullivan–one problem amongst many–is that he seems to think (or would have us think) that the only time the cranks and lunatics have come out into the open was in response and opposition to the Obama Presidency. Again, all one has to do is to use Google to annihilate this proposition. Why doesn’t Sullivan fact-check himself?
It is worth noting as well that during the Bush Presidency, there was all sorts of yelling and screaming about the incipient threat of fascism. Paul Krugman, among others, caught the crazy virus. I would think that such talk should have been retracted, and its propagators should have apologized for their mindless alarmism when a President from a party that opposed the Bush Administration got elected to succeed Bush, and power was handed over peacefully, seamlessly, and non-fascistically to Bush’s successor. Alas, said retractions and apologies have not yet been proffered.
We can finally move on. Paragraph two:
As for “critiques”, GOP cooperation does not invalidate them. But I’m not talking about good faith critiques of policy. I’m talking about the plain fact that Fox News, talk radio, the Pajamas Media network have not just criticized the president, but demonized him as beyond the American pale, lying about his belief in American exceptionalism, tying him to “Kenyan anti-colonialism” or other such Stanley-Kurtz style paranoia-for-pay. Check out the image above. Did it appear in some fringe Larouchian publication? Nope; it was right there in Forbes Magazine, next to a piece by Steve Forbes. Name one MSM publication that photo-shopped Bush in that way.
Check out the image Sullivan references. To say the least, it’s pretty ridiculous. Now, in response to Sullivan’s comments, I am afraid that I cannot name “one MSM publication that photo-shopped Bush in that way,” insofar as I cannot find one MSM publication that photo-shopped Bush as a stand-in for Joseph Stalin, sitting next to Vladimir Lenin.
But thanks to Moe Lane, and Dan McLaughlin, I can show you this image, comparing George W. Bush to Saddam Hussein. And this image, comparing George W. Bush to the Joker; recall that a similar comparison between the Joker and Obama evoked utter rage from the Left (never mind the fact that the person who drew President Obama as the Joker was a Kucinich supporter). And I can show you this image, portraying George W. Bush as a vampire, sucking the blood out of Lady Liberty. While we are at it, and speaking of all things Twilightesque, let’s not forget the vampirization of John McCain by one of Andrew Sullivan’s own colleagues at the Atlantic, who apparently decided to join Sullivan in an effort to ruin one of America’s great magazines. (More here.)
The MSM featured allegations that the Bush family aided and abetted Hitler’s rise to power. Not a photo-shop, but I dare say it’s much worse, and much less responsible. And as Dan McLaughlin points out, there were any number of crazy efforts on the Left to make George W. Bush and his Administration look bad, mainly by adopting “fake but accurate” as their mantra no matter what loony story they sought to push.
I feel I have to point this out again: Sullivan could have found all of this evidence on his own. He chose either to ignore it because it would undermine his “argument,” or he was too intellectually lazy to fact-check himself.
The level of bile against anything he has done, the loathing projected onto him – for doing what he clearly promised to do – is clearly beyond what happened to Bush. I remember. Because for the first two years of Bush in office, I defended him against those on the left who wouldn’t give him the slightest benefit of any doubt. And the fury that crested against him was largely due to the Iraq war – a decision he implicitly ran against in 2000, when he promised a humble foreign policy and less defense spending than Gore.
Shorter Andrew Sullivan: “Because I defended George W. Bush, I remember what was done to him, and I can argue from authority that Obama ‘clearly’ has it worse.” Well, as the foregoing demonstrates, that’s clearly untrue. And guess what? I defended George W. Bush at the same time Sullivan did, and it appears I remember my history of Bush Demonization better than he does.
I would blockquote paragraph four, but really, haven’t I made my point? I’ll just close with one question: How many more badly written, badly researched, patently false and disingenuous Sullivanesque scribblings is it going to take before the Atlantic finally decides to save what is left of its reputation, and fire Andrew Sullivan?